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by Anna Cherkasova, Science/Environment editor

He is Tony Rutledge, and on March 16, he was going to HPU to give a guest lecture to students in COM 3910, Labor Relations. They were ready, waiting, anxious to hear labor’s side of the story.
Rutledge is a past president of Unity House, which he and his father started. A former labor leader recently emerged from a nine-year federal investigation case with a guilty plea to a single count of filing a false tax return in 1997.

Rutledge hoped to find at HPU an audience free of prejudice.

“ It doesn’t matter that Tony plead guilty to a nine-year-old tax infraction,” said Dr. Larry LeDoux, HPU chair of journalism and a guest at Rutledge’s talk to the Labor Relations class.

“ There was no evidence of fraud or conspiracy, the judge was a friend of a prosecutor and should have recused himself, and Tony has proved his dedication to Hawai ‘i’s workers and the labor movement.”

During the 90-minute speech, Rutledge covered a lot of different topics, including the history of labor union in Hawai ‘i, his father’s role as one of the first labor union organizers on the islands, his confrontations with other labor union leaders, and his involvement with unions since he was 19.

“ Unions exist,” said Rutledge, “for the improvement of wages, hours, and conditions of employment. And that’s all.”

Students had lots of questions for Rutledge, who answered all of them without any hesitation.
“ It was very honest and open,” said Desiree Ramirez, journalism major.

“ He was very believable,” said Brittany Yap, a senior graduating with a B.A. in journalism, whose family has strong roots in Hawai‘i’s labor movement.

By the end of his presentation Rutledge had one last thing to mention. “Unfortunately,” he said, “there are no classes anywhere in labor history, organization, communication, negotiation, or theory.”

Course instructor Tony Chang agreed. “It’s one of the reasons I wanted to teach this course,” Chang said.

 

 

 

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