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Thursday, March 8, 2001

Rutledge put
back on board
of Local 5

New trustee Sherri Chiesa
appoints the ex-hotel labor head
to help mend union rifts

By Tim Ruel

Tony Rutledge is looking forward to being back at the bargaining table.

Less than a year after losing his seat at the helm of the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees union Local 5, Rutledge has been reinstalled by the union's new trustee.

"They wanted to show a united front, so they asked me to participate," Rutledge said. "None of this was preordained or predetermined."

Sherri Chiesa, the trustee who took over Local 5 last week, said she is appointing Rutledge to help mend the union's rifts. "It was my intent all along," Chiesa said yesterday from San Francisco, where she is attending a union training conference.

Chiesa said she wants to tap Rutledge's experience, as well as have him work together with Eric Gill, who narrowly unseated Rutledge last year from a 14-year run as the union's financial secretary-treasurer. Chiesa said the move will show hotel managers that the union is not divided.

The union's international parent appointed Chiesa to speed contract talks stalled by battles between Gill and his executive board, which had been largely composed of Rutledge supporters. Chiesa, who replaced Gill and the board, is the international's Western regional director and plans to run this summer for the No. 2 spot of general secretary-treasurer.

Gill was on Maui and could not be reached for comment yesterday.

He has recently accused Rutledge's supporters on the board of hampering negotiations to cause the appointment of a trustee.

Chiesa said she is meeting with Gill and Rutledge on Monday to decide who else to include in the negotiations.

Likely candidates include Rutledge supporters Arlene Ilae and Kaui Akana and Gill supporter Orlando Soriano. Chiesa said she is acting in fairness and has asked Gill to add his own supporters to the union's bargaining committee, which leans in favor of Rutledge.

Chiesa will oversee the union until the contracts are settled, after which she will run new elections for Local 5.

Rutledge acknowledged that his participation in negotiations could help his potential candidacy. "That's probably obvious -- if I'm going to run again -- that that'll be a plus," he said.

In the meantime, Rutledge didn't know how well he would work with Gill.

"I don't mind. We got a job to do," said Rutledge. "Personally, I enjoy negotiating."

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