Judge tosses union suit over sale of Hilo hotel
HILO » A union challenge to Hilo businessman Ken Fujiyama's purchase of the Hawaii Naniloa Resort was thrown out of court yesterday by Circuit Judge Glenn Hara.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union challenged the sale of the lease of state land under the hotel, arguing the deal wasn't completed until after a deadline had passed.
Hara ruled that the union had no standing -- meaning no direct interest in the transaction -- that would warrant it bringing suit.
Fujiyama was six days late in paying $6.1 million to the former leaseholder, the union said. But Hara noted that the former leaseholder was not complaining about getting the money a few days late.
The ILWU has said the underlying reason for the challenge was that Fujiyama rehired only 20 of 138 former workers who were union members. Fujiyama is trying to bust the union, the union said.
Additional new workers have been hired and the hotel remains only partially open while renovations are under way.
After the court session, Fujiyama told the Star-Bulletin he is paying workers more now than they earned under the previous owners.
Housekeepers at the Naniloa formerly earned $7.61 per hour, Fujiyama said. He is paying them $9 to $9.50 per hour. Employees at adjoining hotels are applying at the Naniloa because of the higher pay and benefits, he said.
Fujiyama expects to sustain the higher pay by turning the Naniloa into a "first-class" hotel, he said. The hotel sits on six acres on Hilo Bay and has a nine-hole golf course, he said.
ILWU officials said they have not given up the fight to block the sale. Judge Hara gave union attorney Gary Okuda a week to file a revised challenge, but said he is not likely to agree to it when it is filed.
Union official George Martin said the ILWU will fight Hara's ruling to the state Supreme Court.
An election to determine whether current employees want re-establishment of union representation is set for March 22.