Unity House drops
annual Labor Day
union picnic

For the first time in more than 50 years, Unity House will not hold a Labor Day picnic for union members and families.

The annual picnic at Ala Moana Beach Park was attended by hundreds to thousands of people -- a favorite event for union members, their families and political candidates pressing the flesh.

"Well, the Teamsters Union (Local 996) chose to do their own (picnic) a couple, three or four years ago," said Mike Tanaka, executive assistant to Unity House President and Chief Executive Tony Rutledge.

Rutledge's father, Arthur, was a founding member of the hotel workers' union and also founded Unity House to provide benefits for members and retirees of various unions. Arthur Rutledge died in 1997 at age 90.

With both the Teamsters and hotel workers unions holding their own Labor Day events in the past few years, Unity House did not want to force union members to choose between the events, Rutledge said.

"I just want the unions to know we're not here to compete with them," Rutledge said. "If they want to do their own (events), we'll support them with monies and prizes."

Rutledge accepted an invitation to speak tomorrow at the Teamsters Labor Day event at Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park.

Teamsters President Mel Kahele could not be reached.

The hotel workers union, Local 5, has also gone its own way in recent years, partnering instead with the AFL-CIO for events such as last year's Labor Day march, said spokesman Jason Ward.

However, the union does not have an event planned for this weekend, Ward said.

"I suspect that in years to come we will probably have some sort of Labor Day event," he said.

In July, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union merged with Unite, formerly the Union of Needletrades, Textiles and Industrial Employees to for Unite Here Local 5.

Rutledge resigned his 35-year membership in the hotel workers' union in January as the union's Washington, D.C.-based parent was to commence disciplinary proceedings against him for allegedly defrauding the union, providing improper loans to union members and filing faulty financial reports with the federal government.

Rutledge and his son Aaron Rutledge were also indicted by a grand jury on tax fraud charges related to the family's Waikiki Beach concession stand.

Unity House will continue to sponsor Thanksgiving dinners for retirees and a December event called "Zoo Lights" for families, he said.

The annual Labor Day picnic "was basically put on by Local 5 with the help of the Teamsters. When Unity House sold hotels back in 1989 and I took over as head of Unity House, we had money so we took over the responsibility and cost of doing it for the past 14 to 15 years. But when the Teamsters started doing their own and Local 5 was pushing not to attend ours, we said, 'Let's just support them,'" Rutledge said.



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