THE DATULAYTA BROTHERS
OF HONOLULU DISPOSAL SERVICE
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Datulayta brothers -- Servando, left, Romeo, Manuel "Manny" and Florencio "Junior" -- all drive garbage trucks for Honolulu Disposal Service. They are one of three sets of brothers who work for the firm, which has long fostered a family atmosphere.
It's a smelly job, but these four do it with smiles
Garbage has been anything but rotten for the Datulayta brothers.
Every day, Servando, Junior, Manny and Romeo Datulayta -- four brothers ranging in age from 33 to 53 -- go to the Diamond Head end of Sand Island, climb into a massive truck and spend the next eight to 10 hours hauling garbage for Honolulu Disposal Service Inc.
, Hawaii's largest private trash hauler and processor.
It's a smelly job, but the pay's good and, Junior said, the garbage biz has something else going for it: Like death and taxes, rubbish is one of civilization's inevitable byproducts.
"Garbage will always be here," said Junior, 33, who went to work at Honolulu Disposal 10 years ago, then recruited his three brothers over the next several years.
Romeo, a 53-year-old former bus driver who made about $2 a day back home in the Philippines, was the last to join the company. He now takes home about $800 a week, counting overtime pay.
"I love this job," said Romeo.
It's not sheer coincidence that the Datulaytas are working together for Honolulu Disposal, said Harold Nakabayashi, vice president in charge of operations for the 300-employee firm. Founded in 1967 by Hideo Kaneshiro, and now run by his son, Clyde, Honolulu Disposal always has been a family-owned business, and managers there have long cultivated a family atmosphere, Nakabayashi said.
The result has been a staff of loyal employees who support each other and often recruit their kin when new jobs open up. Having built-in peer support and recruiting capabilities is hardly a trivial asset for a company that employs 100 drivers at a time when commercial truckers are in short supply, Nakabayashi said.
"It's because of families like this that we're able to survive," he said of the Datulaytas.
The Datulaytas aren't the only brothers working for the company. There are also the Loa Brothers and the Samuelu Brothers and a number of cousins, Nakabayashi said.
"We're all bruddahs over here," he said.
Having so many families working for the company isn't always easy, Nakabayashi said.
"It gets tough when they've all got to go to Samoa for a funeral or the Philippines for a funeral," he said. Plus, he said, like any family, there are occasional squabbles. But Nakabayashi said the atmosphere encourages people to work out their problems collegially. Meanwhile, the company can typically avoid bad hires by relying on word-of-mouth referrals.
"A lot of these guys, if they're going to recommend somebody, they're not going to recommend someone who's a bum," Nakabayashi said.
Although many companies use anti-nepotism policies that prevent relatives from working together, it's not uncommon for firms to hire relatives, said David Bess, a professor of management and industrial relations at the University of Hawaii College of Business Administration.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Datulayta brothers gather for a photo inside the cab of Manny's "roll off" truck; his three brothers also drive trucks for Honolulu Disposal Service. Manny, from right, has been working at the company for nine years, Junior for 11, Servando for seven and Romeo for four.
The University of Hawaii, for instance, hires spouses, although policies ensure that one spouse will not be working as the other's supervisor to avoid the potential appearance of favoritism, Bess said.
One downside of hiring relatives, Bess said, is that personal problems that might affect only one person often will affect more than one. For instance, he said, if spouses who work together divorce, that can create problems at work. Or if a married couple working at the office have a sick child at home, that can create distraction for both workers.
For those reasons, and others, hiring family members is a "very, very bad idea," said Susan Fox-Wolfgramm, a professor of management at Hawaii Pacific University's College of Business Administration.
Although many managers believe close-knit workers will create a harmonious workplace, Fox-Wolfgramm said, that's often not the case when workers belong to the same family.
In her research and personal experience, "I've seen the negative side more than the positive side," Fox-Wolfgramm said.
Still, Bess said, if employees enjoy working together, they'll often go out of their way to help out their colleagues. And that, Bess said, is a good thing.
Ultimately, nurturing a family-like culture can help workers feel that management cares about them, which creates more productive workers, said Howard Wittenberg, who also teaches management at the University of Hawaii College of Business Administration.
"It emanates from the top," Wittenberg said. "The culture of an organization come from the top. It's shared values; and what you try to create is a good environment where people want to come to work."
And to hear the Datulaytas tell it, that's what Honolulu Disposal has done.
There's nothing particularly appealing about Honolulu Disposal's workplace. The smell of garbage pervades the company's massive, sun-baked facility where workers sort through, compact and dispose of tons of garbage and recyclable material a day. The smell of filth lingers near the Datulayta brothers' trucks at the end of the day and sticks to a visitor's shoes long after the visitor has left processing yard, like an olfactory souvenir of an unpleasant trip.
The Datulaytas don't seem to mind it too much. They spend most of their time on the road, hauling containers of trash from hotels and construction sites back to Sand Island, Junior said, so the smell of the facility isn't much of an issue. And, Junior said, the Datulaytas come from a long line of bus and truck drivers, so it makes sense for the brothers to be hauling garbage.
"It was my dream even when I was young to drive big trucks, so I guess that's it," he said. "We were born to drive trucks."