Maui hospital staff reject new proposed contract, continue month-long strike


Hannah Saunders


Following over a month of strikes and rejected contract negotiations, members of United Public Workers (UPW) at Kaiser’s Maui Health System remain on strike. On Feb. 22nd, about 500 nurses aides, respiratory therapists, housekeepers, cooks, and other hospital staff at three Maui facilities walked out and began picketing. 

Workers are calling for higher pay and better working conditions at Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital, and Lanai Community Hospital. According to UPW, members will continue to strike until a fair contract is reached. Most recently, Maui Health met with the UPW bargaining team and a federal mediator on March 23rd to discuss another contract proposal.


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“After nearly a full day of discussions, UPW presented a counter proposal to Maui Health,” Maui Health said in an update. “We are in the process of evaluating this proposal, along with other potential options, to find the best way to a successful outcome. Maui Health is committed to bargaining in good faith to honor our employees and serve the best interests of our patients and communities.”

While the next bargaining date has not yet been confirmed, Maui Health wants to remind community members that they should continue to seek care, regardless of the ongoing strikes.

On March 20th, UPW announced how a large number of members voted against Maui Health’s three-year contract offer, stating that the contract offer undervalues healthcare workers who deserve to be treated fairly and properly compensated.

“The latest proposed wage increases still leave many skilled employees making less than the market rate and do not keep up with the inflation rate,” UPW stated in a press release. “The employer has proven time and time again that they have money for traveling staff but spare none for the loyal local families that serve their community. Although frontline workers put their lives at risk through the pandemic, hospital management repeatedly fails to do what’s right and give them the respect they deserve.”

In February, UPW announced how it has been receiving support and donations from the community. Gino Soquena at Hawaii Building & Construction Trades provided a donation of glow sticks and safety vests to ensure strikers are visible during picketing shifts. The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement also provided members with reflective vests. 

UPW’s Local 646 State Director Kalani Werner spoke out in a statement in February about what led up to this moment.

“A strike is not an easy decision, but our members are committed to making their voices heard and demanding fair treatment for all workers,” Werner said. “We’ve heard, despite the fact that we provided the hospital with 10 days’ advance notice of the strike, they are continuing to try to operate business as usual despite not filling our core and critical positions.”

Within a week of workers striking, UPW posted photographs showing the alleged unsafe working conditions, including blood splatter on patient room floors, sheets with visible stains and dark spots that are marked as clean, piles of hazardous hospital garbage piled up in an emergency room, and white towels being used as floor mops in kitchens. 

Alleged conditions of Maui Health System hospitals. Courtesy of UPW.

“These images only scratch the surface of the underlying issues that persist within the hospital,” stated UPW in a news release. “Our continued efforts to demand fair wages, safe working conditions, and better patient care have been met with resistance from the hospital management.”