HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Organizers of the 2018 Sony Open had plenty to worry about on Saturday, given the state's false ballistic missile warning, but it now appears the tournament has a new set of issues.
Unionized workers for the Golf Channel, including the video and audio production teams that produce the televised broadcast of the tournament, walked off the course on Sunday morning due to a labor-related dispute.
"We wanted you to be aware that due to a labor dispute between the Golf Channel and its live tournament technicians union, today's broadcast of the Sony Open in Hawaii, Diamond Resorts Invitational and The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic will be significantly impacted," the PGA said in a statement. "We are working closely with our partners at the Golf Channel to provide as much television coverage as possible in the interim."
Union members were seen picketing outside of the Waialae Country Club ahead of the tournament's final round.
John Culleeny, a representative for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, said in front of picketers that last-minute talks broke down, leaving them no choice but to organize a strike.
"We've been in negotiations with Golf Channel for second contract for nine months, and they've proved fruitless. We rejected one vote a while back and when they put their last proposal out, 83 percent of our members rejected it," Culleeny said "After a couple of last minute talks, nothing happened so we just pulled the crew today. We pulled the crew in the Bahamas and we pulled the crew in Orlando."
Culleeny said that the major issue the union and its workers have with Golf Channel is discrepancy in pay.
"The biggest issue is the fact that Golf Channel wages are below industry standard, below what other people are making," Culleeny said. "We have people who are stay at home, work regionally in San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Phoenix, New York, whatever. They make more money than people who go on the road for the Gold Channel. And they have to leave their families, stay in a hotel room for weeks at a time, and they're getting paid less than people who stay home. We want parity."
Officials from the Sony Open deferred comment to the PGA Tour on the matter, who released the following statement on the protests happening outside of the Waialae Country Club.
"We apologize for the interruptions to today's PGA Tour telecasts due to a labor dispute between the golf Channel and its live tournament technicians union. We are working closely with our partners at the Golf Channel to provide as much television coverage as possible of the Sony Open in Hawaii, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay and the Diamond Resorts Invitational in the interim.
The PGA Tour declined to provide any further comment on the matter.
Members of the broadcast team who did not want to be identified say the labor dispute also presents major problems for next week's Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, a PGA Tour Champions event that is slated to be televised.
The strike will continue until Golf Channel comes to the table with a reasonable offer, said Culleeny.
"There's no replacement crew here today. They may get one or two cameras on, but there's no replacement crews," he said. "We're winning. We are. People aren't crossing the line. It's time. There hasn't been a national strike in 20 years. But here we are ... It was a tough decision, but people were dug in … We're growing a strong union and you can tell by the members behind me that they're out here in support, and it's a beautiful day. It was a tough decision, but it was the right decision. What else can people do? You don't want to go backwards anymore. Just say no. We're not going backwards anymore."
An unresolved labor dispute would make it difficult for crews to pack up the broadcast equipment that was used at Waialae this week, so that it can be shipped to Hawaii Island and set up for next week's tournament.
The lack of positive television coverage associated with the final round of the Sony Open and next week's event at Hualalai would almost certainly be a serious blow to Hawaii's visitor industry, which is already dealing with the fallout from Saturday's global coverage of the missile alert mistake. More so, Culleeny said that the protests are only getting stronger as the outpour of support from all over the country continues to come in.
"There's 10,000 sports freelancers in the United States and they're supporting us - just bombarding us with support," he said. "They're not crossing the line."
Limited coverage is expected for the final round of the Sony Open and two other events on Sunday.
This story will be updated with more information.