Thursday, October 7, 1999

100 Who Made A Difference

Star Arthur Rutledge Star

Star-Bulletin file photo
Hawaii Teamsters President Arthur Rutledge, right,
and his son, Tony, attend a 1984 meeting.

Labor leader left
lasting impression

By Harold Morse


WHEN Art Rutledge made his last journey through Waikiki on Sept. 25, 1997, his memorial procession brought out hotel maids, security workers, maintenance people, bellboys and waiters.

He was there for them for decades; now, they lined the curbs for him for a last farewell.

A giant among Hawaii labor leaders, Rutledge died at age 90 after being kingpin for years of both the Local 5 Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, and the Teamsters Local 996.

He often found himself amid turmoil. From 1945 to 1987, Rutledge's unions staged at least 200 strikes and work stoppages.

He was arrested at least 23 times, mostly for petty misdemeanors; and once was hospitalized after a picket-line scuffle with a policeman. Often at odds with employers, other unions and his own international unit, he refused from 1957 to 1962 to pay local dues to the national Teamsters because he saw little in return to Hawaii.

Arthur Abraham Rutledge was born Avrom Rotlieder on Jan. 2, 1907, in Lublin, Poland. Some six years later, his parents moved to Texas, then to Minneapolis.

When their father left and mother died when he was 12, Rutledge and his brother Maurice were raised in an orphanage. He left it and school at about 14, drifting, later becoming a bartender in Seattle.

He came here in the 1930s, initially tending bars downtown, then began organizing bartenders and other workers. In 1939, he became head of Local 5, and in the early 1940s, started what became Teamsters Local 996.

In 1959, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service tried to deport him. On Sept. 8, 1960 -- after testimony from Minnesota Sen. Hubert Humphrey, Honolulu Mayor Neal Blaisdell and others -- Rutledge was allowed to become a U.S. citizen.

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