Union harassing would-be Turtle Bay guests, suit says
FOR NOLA NAHULU, artistic director of the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus, the last straw was a chance encounter outside of the Hawaii Theatre in Chinatown.
There Nahulu ran into a representative of the hotel workers union Local 5, whose members had been making calls to Nahulu's workplaces all over town to try to convince her not to let her choir participate in a children's choral music festival at the Turtle Bay Resort.
Irked by the unannounced visits to her muumuu factory, church and a University of Hawaii studio where her choir practices, Nahulu had declined to return phone calls placed by the union. To be accosted on the street by a union official was too much.
"I felt like I was being stalked," she said.
Whether Nahulu was in fact stalked -- or more precisely whether union workers have illegally harassed people like Nahulu -- is at the center of a lawsuit filed yesterday by Turtle Bay against the union. The suit marks the latest iteration of a long-standing legal brawl between management of the North Shore resort and its workers.
The union says it has simply tried to inform Turtle Bay customers of the situation at the resort, where workers are picketing as Turtle Bay faces a 31-count unfair labor practices charge filed by the National Labor Relations Board.
But Turtle Bay claims that the union has gone too far.
"This has nothing to do with legitimate union behavior," said Terry O'Toole, a lawyer for Turtle Bay. "This is thuggery."
"It's one thing to contact people and leave fliers," she said. "It's another thing to approach people on a social basis and to raise voices."
Nahulu and another customer of the hotel have obtained temporary restraining orders preventing the union from contacting them; Turtle Bay paid the customers' legal fees in these matters.
In a separate complaint, Turtle Bay alleges that Local 5 has sought to disrupt not just the Pacific Rim Children's Chorus Festival, but also upcoming events planned by Airways Management Group and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
The suit alleges that the union's behavior amounts to illegal harassment of people with contracts at the resort and the fraudulent impersonation of resort employees, among other claims.
Andy Lee, a research analyst with Unite-Here Local 5, said the union has been contacting customers to let them know about the labor dispute before they arrive at the resort.
"What we find when we talk to the customers is that they are often shocked to find out that they will have to cross a picket line to get to their rooms," Lee said. "Turtle Bay never informs guests about this in order to let them make an informed choice about whether they want to come to a hotel that does business like this."
Lee said the union's practice is to mail information to the resort client, then follow up with a phone call and possibly a personal visit if the client is in Hawaii. Lee said he did not think the union representatives had harassed anyone.
"It's ironic that they claim we are harassing guests," said Lee, who pointed out that federal labor officials have accused Turtle Bay of spying on workers illegally and firing them for union activity, among other charges.
Nahulu said that the union representatives had not physically threatened her, but she said she had been intimidated. In some cases, Nahulu said union representatives yelled at her colleagues or employees, people who have even less to do with the dispute at Turtle Bay than Nahulu. Nahulu said she has received 80 postcards from union members asking her to boycott Turtle Bay.
During her last meeting with a union representative, Nahulu said she pointed out something she feels has been lost on the union: "I said, 'You're treating me the way you're asking other people not to treat you,'" she said.