Union wins free-speech battle at Hale Koa
A judge has approved a settlement allowing Local 5 to leaflet outside the Army-owned hotel
Representatives of the hotel workers union Unite Here Local 5 have won a legal battle over free speech rights in the area outside of the Army-owned Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki.
Following a consent decree signed by Judge Susan O. Mollway in mid-December, union members have the right to hand out leaflets, picket and demonstrate at Fort DeRussy.
The Army declined to comment yesterday.
Bill Kearsley, a plaintiff in the suit, called the settlement a victory for free speech and first amendment rights.
"It's basically a civil rights issue," said Kearsley, a lifeguard at Hale Koa for 10 years. "We believe that we had a First Amendment right, and certainly the Army is not above the First Amendment right. Now we can communicate with the members before they go to work and let them know exactly what we want to address."
The lawsuit, filed Sept. 5 in U.S. District Court, charged that Hale Koa management and security officers threatened four Local 5 representatives with physical force and arrest for passing out leaflets to prospective members on the sidewalks outside of the hotel in Fort DeRussy park.
Workers at the Hale Koa voted in April to join Local 5.
Some of the workers were previously represented by the federal union SEIU/NAGE Local 556, with optional membership.
Kearsley, Nelly Nam, Laura Moye and Loreta Tactay were plaintiffs in the suit.
Under the terms of the agreement, Local 5 representatives are allowed to leaflet at Fort DeRussy park and on the sidewalks without a permit if there are 100 or fewer people involved. If there are more than 100 people involved, the union is required to apply for a permit beforehand.
The area of Fort DeRussy, as defined in the suit, includes the block bounded by Kalakaua Avenue, Saratoga Road, Kalia Road and Ala Moana, as well as the beachfront block where the hotel is located on the makai side of Kalia. The area includes Fort DeRussy park, along with the public beach areas, but does not include tennis courts, pool areas, parking lots, garages, buildings and the sidewalk between Kalia Road and the Asia Pacific Center.
Kearsley said the union has had to hand out leaflets outside the hotel because the Army will not allow its representatives inside.
"How else would we talk to them (union members) if they put up roadblocks and don't let us inside?" he said.
As part of the agreement, the Army will pay the plaintiffs' legal fees, which are estimated at about $10,000 but still being negotiated.
Local 5 also is investigating allegations of unfair labor practices against workers at Hale Koa, and intends to file formal charges with the Federal Labor Relations Authority.
Contract negotiations between Unite Here Local 5 and Hale Koa are scheduled to begin on Wednesday.