Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Union chief’s
conviction hurts
Dems, expert says

Rodrigues guilty
The charges
Union reaction

By Genevieve A. Suzuki

The conviction of United Public Workers State Director Gary Rodrigues in federal court yesterday dealt another blow to an already weakened state Democratic Party, said Rick Castberg, a political science professor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

"Something like this will reduce the influence of endorsements, and since the Democratic Party has always relied heavily on union endorsements, this has got to hurt," Castberg said.

"The party has already been damaged with convictions of its own," added Castberg, referring to the convictions of former city Councilmembers Rene Mansho and Andy Mirikitani, former state Sen. Marshall Ige and former Rep. Nobu Yonamine.

But Rodrigues' conviction hurt the labor movement more than anything else, he said.

"Certainly (the unions') influence has been reduced by this conviction," he said. "That's too bad because the vast majority of the UPW are honest, hardworking people, and to have their leader convicted ... sort of reflects on them unfairly."

In a statement released last night, Gov. Ben Cayetano called Rodrigues one of Hawaii's most effective labor leaders.

"Today's conviction, however, will tarnish that record," Cayetano said.

Rodrigues was also president of the Hawaii State Federation AFL-CIO, an umbrella organization for 55 unions and councils, from 1985 to 1997.

The power and effectiveness of union endorsements have been declining, Castberg said.

"(Lt. Gov. Mazie) Hirono got almost all the endorsements, and she still lost," he said.

Castberg said he was flabbergasted that Rodrigues' attorney, Doron Weinberg, offered no defense.

"All the defense had to do was raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of one juror and he wouldn't have been convicted," Castberg said.

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