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  • About Art Rutledge

A Man of Great Vision
With the creation of Unity house, Art Rutledge did what no other man had ever done.

When he died in 1997, Arthur A. Rutledge was eulogized and mourned by lawmakers and union leaders, by friends and foes, and by employers and working men.

While everyone had a different and personal view of him, all would agree that he was a unique man whose life's work had left an indelible imprint on the history of the State of Hawaii.

It was Rutledge's destiny that as unionism became a powerful force in Hawaii during the 20th Century, he was present at the creation and became one of the architects of Hawaii's union movement.

While always saying that his goals and objectives were only to improve the wages and benefits of his members, Rutledge, when he was successful (and that was most of the time), was always setting a new standard by which all other union contracts in Hawaii were compared.

If this were all that he did, it was enough to carve a place in Hawaii's history. But his achievements must be viewed in broader terms. For what he achieved with the creation of Unity House went far beyond the imagination of most of the leaders of his time.

Today, Unity House is viewed as a benevolent organization that seeks to provide a variety of programs and activities for its beneficiaries so that the quality of life will be improved for their families. However, that was not always the case. During his lifetime, Rutledge has many battles about Unity House and what it was and who would benefit. He endured congressional and governmental inquiries and a variety of lawsuits from those who did not share his direction for the organization.

Each time, he prevailed and Unity House, as a result of his financial acumen, prospered.

What set him apart was his constant search for something better. Primarily self-taught, it was always his feeling that you couldn't just limit yourself to your field, but you should always try to learn more. The best example of this was the various portraits of individuals that hung in his office at the old Unity House Building on Ena Road in Waikiki. It was often a shock for a first time visitor to find that most of the individuals were prominent employers and businessmen, such as Henry J. Kaiser, Roy Kelly, Harry Weinberg and Edward Hastings of the Hilton Hotel chain.

But as Rutledge explained, these men had helped him understand the business world a lot better and that gave him a deeper appreciation of the "bigger Picture" and the need for labor to develop more of a cooperative rather than adversarial relationship with management so that Hawaii's industries could continue to thrive.

It was this world view that helped guide Rutledge in the development and sale of the Waikiki Marina Hotel. He built the hotel during thriving growth years of tourism in Hawaii. It operated successfully for two decades before the demand for commercial properties such as hotels had increased dramatically in the 1980's. He listened to offers for many years and finally sold just as the real estate market was starting to decline. The hotel sale provided the financial "nest egg" for Unity House so that programs could be offered to beneficiaries.

In his final years, when the scholarships, child care grants and housing were offered to the beneficiaries, more people now understood his vision and what he was trying to accomplish.

At Local 5's last union convention, a delegate stood up and talked about her years when she was a business agent working for Art Rutledge. She fondly recounted the often told stories of the ‘old man's tightfisted control of the dollar', but said in retrospect, that there was a method to his madness and that all who sat at the convention were now enjoying the fruits of Art's lifelong labor.

In his remembrance of his old friend, U.S. Senator Dan Inouye summed it up by pointing out that Arthur A. Rutledge was "maligned by a few but loved by many, " especially those who were members of Local 5 and the Hawaii Teamsters.

For while he was sometimes misunderstood in his life, his memory lives on in Unity House and what it will do in the future. This is his lasting, living legacy.

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  • Honolulu Star Bulletin Article on Art Rutledge Passing
    Arthur A. "Art" Rutledge, one of the giants of the Hawaii labor movement and a transportation and hotel workers' leader whose prominence grew along with tourism, died last night in Kaiser Hospital at the age of 90.
  • Our Mission
    The Purpose Of Unity House Incorporated (UHI) Is To Promote The True And Proper Interest Of And To Assist The Working Individuals Of The State Of Hawaii. More...
  • History
    Founded by the late Arthur A. Rutledge, Unity House Incorporated is a Hawaii non-profit corporation which has been serving Hawaii's people since 1951. More...
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  • About Unity House
    Unity House Incorporated is a Hawaii non-profit corporation which has been serving Hawaii's people since 1951.
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