Hotel accused of busting union
HILO » The failure of Big Island businessman Ken Fujiyama to rehire most workers at the recently purchased Hawaii Naniloa Resort shows Fujiyama is trying eliminate union representation there, an International Longshore Workers Union official said yesterday.
Of 138 ILWU members working at the bayside hotel in Hilo, Fujiyama has rehired only about 20 since taking over the company Wednesday, said Richard Baker Jr., Hawaii Division director for the union.
Federal law says union representation at a work site is lost if fewer than half of the employees are retained by a new owner, he said.
The ILWU will campaign among employees to re-establish union representation, Baker said.
Meanwhile, the ILWU also filed suit Tuesday to block the sale of the Naniloa to Fujiyama for $6.1 million.
The state owns the land where the 391-room resort sits. The resort has a 65-year lease on the land.
The lawsuit contends that improper procedures were followed when the state approved the sale, and that a Jan. 26 deadline for completion was missed.
State Attorney General Mark Bennett responded that he had reviewed the transaction and found it proper in every regard.
The suit was filed against Fujiyama and three companies associated with him, as well as against the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Title Guaranty Escrow Services.
The suit says a letter in December signed by Fujiyama as chief executive officer of Hawaii Outdoor Tours with a letterhead of Nani Mau Inc. asked the state for a time extension until Jan. 26.
However, state business registration records do not show Fujiyama being an officer in either of those companies, the suit says.
Hawaii Naniloa Resort LLC was also named as a defendant.
Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Randy Iwase issued a statement asking why Gov. Linda Lingle permitted a sale that resulted in so many layoffs.
Lingle could have let the deadline for transferring the leases expire and reopened bidding, Iwase said.
Bennett said doing that would have opened the state to a lawsuit from both Fujiyama and the former owner of the resort, with the result possibly being the state having the pay the $6.1 million purchase price.
Lingle is concerned about the workers, Bennett said. Even before Iwase made his comments, state officials had scheduled a meeting with Fujiyama for next week "to discuss his plans," Bennett said.
None of the $6.1 million, already placed in an escrow account by Fujiyama, goes into state coffers, Bennett said.
The lawsuit had questioned whether Fujiyama paid the purchase price. Baker questioned Fujiyama's financial soundness, noting that a series of Fujiyama's companies have gone bankrupt in the past. He cited Ken Corp., Fujiyama Development, Fujiyama Management and Volcano Enterprises.
Fujiyama could not be reached for comment.