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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Third party to tally hotel union votes

By Glenn Scott
Advertiser Staff Writer

A Washington, D.C., company will operate a computerized ballot-counting system for the July 6 mail-in elections of the top officers and executive board members of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, Local 5.

Tony Rutledge announces he's running for the top job at the hotel/restaurant local unit.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Sherri Chiesa, the trustee appointed this year by the international union to take control of the local union paralyzed by a leadership struggle, said yesterday that the union will bring in a third-party firm True Ballots Inc., to ensure a trustworthy tally.

"It's important to me personally that we have as challenge-proof an election as possible," she said.

Chiesa is counting on the election to serve, finally, as the event to resolve the power struggle between rival factions backing Eric Gill and Tony Rutledge. Both men are running again for the top office of secretary-treasurer. Other potential candidates have until 5 p.m. tomorrow to enter the race.

Chiesa said the professional balloting firm also should help the local union to maintain its tight schedule in emerging from trusteeship. She said she intends to install the election winners on the morning of July 7, the day after the election, so the new officers can prepare to attend the hotel workers' international convention a week later at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

"I've said all along," she said, "that we hope to complete the trusteeship in time to have the (winners) seated as delegates at our convention."

Gill announced his candidacy Saturday.

Yesterday, Rutledge surrounded himself with retired union members at his Kapi'olani Boulevard campaign office to declare that his campaign will place an emphasis on experience.

Tony Rutledge's rival candidate Eric Gill campaigns with Maria Salantes.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Rutledge said that he had put work ahead of politics in the March 2000 election — when Gill won by 43 votes — but that he intends to work harder this time to visit on-site and chat with members about contracts and working conditions.

"I shouldn't have taken that for granted last time," he said, "and the members shouldn't have taken it for granted."

About 45 percent of the 11,000 union members voted in the previous election. Rutledge and others on his campaign team estimated yesterday that participation will rise closer to 65 percent. Ballots will go out in the mail June 14.

Rutledge, who served for 14 years as secretary-treasurer, is the head of Unity House, a $60 million organization set up by his father to benefit Local 5 members and Teamsters. He also is the vice president of the international hotel union, the organization that appointed Chiesa.

Yesterday, Rutledge focused on union business during his remarks in officially announcing his candidacy, arguing that the members need his competence to catch up with a backlog of contract negotiations with some of the Islands' largest hotels. He said he'd like the international union to maintain a staff presence in Hawai'i through autumn to help with negotiations.

Rutledge made few references to Gill, explaining afterward: "If a guy doesn't accomplish a hell of a lot in a year, what else can you say?"

Gill was unavailable for comment yesterday, but he has argued that Rutledge, a career insider, has sought to obstruct any efforts to change the union's direction.

Gill prevailed in the March 2000 election after a federal judge ruled that Rutledge had improperly removed Gill's name from a 1997 election ballot.

Both Rutledge and Gill warmed up their campaigns yesterday with sign-waving in prime locations.