Wednesday, November 20, 2002

UPW stewards
say justice done
in Rodrigues verdict

They say stealing from the
lowest paid is especially egregious

Rodrigues guilty
The charges
Political impact

By Leila Fujimori

Three former United Public Workers chief stewards who alleged in 1999 that Gary Rodrigues violated the union constitution by failing to disclose financial information said they were not surprised by his conviction yesterday.

"He got what he deserved," said Keith Chudzik, a former UPW chief steward at the Board of Water Supply, who is now a Hawaii Government Employees Association union steward.

"The sad thing about this is you have a guy who's stealing money from the lowest-paid county workers in your own union hall," Chudzik said. "That's pretty low to do. That is a pathetic crime."

Chudzik characterized his and fellow former union stewards' actions as "just to open the lid on his corruption in the UPW local here."

A federal trial could have been avoided had the UPW's parent union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, handled the matter internally when he, Angel Santiago-Cruz and Keith Faufata filed charges against Rodrigues, Chudzik said.

AFSCME held a one-day hearing in July 1999 and found Rodrigues innocent of charges that he refused to disclose union records of several questionable financial transactions, and then retaliated against UPW members who raised questions.

Santiago-Cruz, a field lubrication worker and former chief steward at the city's Department of Facility Maintenance, said their actions were necessary to look out for the interests of fellow members.

Santiago-Cruz said this is a difficult time for union workers with privatization and other changes looming.

"This is a great union no matter whatever happened" he said. "I just hope my fellow brothers and sisters realize this is the time to demand their voice back."

Faufata, a city Environmental Service Department sewer maintenance helper, said he believes justice was finally served by Rodrigues' conviction, and noted that the union chief has never admitted any wrongdoing.

"As far as integrity and honesty is concerned, it's a good day for the union," Faufata said.

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