Wednesday, July 7, 1999

UPW’s Rodrigues
stands trial Tuesday

The state director is charged
with violating the rights of
union members

By Ian Y. Lind


A union trial of United Public Workers state director Gary Rodrigues is scheduled to convene Tuesday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, according to notices delivered to participants last week.

Rodrigues is charged with violating the rights of UPW members by ignoring requests to disclose union financial information about several questionable transactions, and then using the UPW newsletter to personally attack those who persisted in raising questions.

The charges were filed by members of the union.

The trial will be conducted according to procedures established by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, UPW's parent union.

A member of AFSCME's International Executive Board will be in Hawaii to preside over the trial, but that person was not identified in the notice.

The charges against Rodrigues were filed in April by Keith Faufata, chief steward for the city's Wastewater Management Division of the Department of Environmental Services; Angel Santiago-Cruz, chief steward for automotive and equipment services in the Facilities Maintenance Department, and Keith Chudzik, who stepped down earlier this year as chief steward for the Board of Water Supply.

Chief stewards are elected by UPW members in their respective units and serve as union officers for their units.

State of the Unions

State of the Unions

Also named in the charges are Clifford "Chip" Uwaine, director of UPW's private sector division and editor of the "Malama Pono" newsletter, and members of the union's state executive board.

If Rodrigues is found guilty, he could be suspended or removed from his position as head of the 12,000-member union.

AFSCME rules also provide that if the charges against Rodrigues are not sustained, penalties could be imposed against the three complainants if the trial officer "is convinced that the charges were not brought in good faith or were actuated by malice."

The charges stem from Rodrigues' refusal to respond to questions prompted by a series of investigative articles in the Star-Bulletin.

Faufata, Santiago-Cruz and Chudzik were among a group of UPW members who circulated a petition last year seeking information about a reported payout made to settle a sexual harassment complaint against Rodrigues, as well as allegations that union staff members traveled to Oregon at union expense to do construction and maintenance work on a home owned by Rodrigues.

Rodrigues and Uwaine published an article in Malama Pono that "intentionally sought to defame, discredit, misrepresent, and retaliate" against them "for raising legitimate questions on the use of UPW funds," their complaint states.

Rodrigues has headed the UPW since 1981, and has been one of the state's most visible labor leaders. He has received a number of political appointments, and currently serves on the influential Judicial Selection Commission, which screens judges for both initial appointment and reappointment.

Rodrigues is also under scrutiny by federal investigators, who have interviewed several current and former UPW members and staff. Court records indicate one focus of investigation is UPW's ties with the failed health insurer, Pacific Group Medical Association, which was seized by insurance regulators in 1997.

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