For immediate release
June 17, 2005
Turtle Bay Workers Strike for Free Speech
Kahuku, June 17, 2005 – Turtle Bay workers are on a one-day unfair labor practice strike to protest the hotel’s threatened termination and suspension of workers for protected speech . On Friday, June 10, 2005, two workers were suspended for union speech. Workers walked off the job at 5:15 am this morning and began setting up picket lines. If the hotel rescinds the disciplinary actions and re-pays the workers for their losses, workers will return to work immediately. If the hotel does not seek a remedy, the strike will continue until 11:00 pm.
“Union speech is free speech,” said Eric Gill, Local 5’s Financial Secretary-Treasurer. “The National Labor Relations Board has already issued a complaint with 13 counts against this employer, mostly for its efforts to limit the right of union staff to talk to workers. Now the hotel is trying to limit the rights of workers to talk to workers. We are out here to defend workers’ right to free speech.”
This retaliation towards two union employees follows on the heels of the hotel’s efforts to curtail legislators’ rights to free speech. In a May 19, 2005 letter, the attorney for the hotel stated in a letter to legislators that, “Your support of the union also engages you directly in a private dispute, which based upon information received from a recent visit with the Hawaii Ethics Commission, is neither ethically appropriate nor acceptable.” Mr. Mollway of the Ethics Commission has publicly responded, saying, “The statement isn’t accurate. I didn’t give him any dispositive advice. I told him it would have to be brought before the Ethics Commission.” (Star Bulletin, 6/2/05)
On June 8, the National Labor Relations Board issued a new consolidated complaint which added five additional unfair labor practice counts against the hotel to the 8 counts that had already been issued. Charges filed by the hotel against the union were all dismissed on June 9 and 10. The NLRB has scheduled a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge on July 19.
On June 9, the hotel attempted unsuccessfully to limit workers’ rights to picket by attempting to get a Temporary Restraining Order issued prohibiting picketing at Turtle Bay in the driveway or other public access areas. This effort to restrict workers’ right to expression failed, as Judges Manuel Real and J. Michael Seabright dismissed the case within an hour. The affidavit submitted by General Manager Abid Butt in support of this motion stated that during the workers’ stop work action on May 21, the picketing “effectively closed off and blocked the main entrance to the Resort, and impacted all properties and activities on the Resort..” Mr. Butt also declared that the hotel was “forced to curtail guest services” and that guests “were inconvenienced and Plaintiffs were unable to provide its usual and outstanding level of service to its guests.” This contradicts Mr. Butt’s statements on that day, when he stated repeatedly to the media that a “full complement of employees…reported for work with business as usual.”
Mark Feltman, the Maintenance worker threatened with termination for asking a co-worker, ‘How was court yesterday?’ said, “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. The whole protocol was wrong. I want this to be that I’m the last person that this will ever happen to at any hotel. No one can go take away our right to free speech.”