INSIDE HAWAII INC.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Janis Saito Bumgarner is the new senior director of labor relations for Hawaiian Airlines. She is a lead union contract negotiator and is a former union representative. She is standing in front of a picture of a Hawaiian plane.
Switching sides at Hawaiian Airlines
The new labor relations director for the company used to represent the union's flight attendants
What brought you into law?
Answer: I enjoyed that part of handling the grievances and negotiations when I was the union chairperson, so I decided to go back to school and get my law degree.
Janis Saito Bumgarner
New job: She has been appointed senior director of labor relations for Hawaiian Airlines.
Description: A former Hawaiian flight attendant, Bumgarner once represented the carrier's unionized employees in labor contract negotiations, and she now will represent management. She will be lead negotiator in bargaining with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Lodges 141 and 142.
History: She started in 1970 as a flight attendant and became part of a team that trained new flight attendants. She started going to law school while working for Hawaiian, was admitted to the bar in 1992 and started her law career at a labor and employment law firm in San Francisco.
Family: Her husband is a former Hawaiian pilot. In the mid-1990s they moved to Taiwan, where her husband served as director of flight operations. She worked for a law firm in Taiwan. They then moved to Truckee, Calif., in 2000, and back to Hawaii at the end of 2004.
What is your new day-to-day job at Hawaiian?
A: Right now I have been meeting with different managers and unions and sitting in on meetings and resolving problems before they become conflicts.
Q: What made you switch from representing the unions to representing management?
A: Even though I severed from Hawaiian I always felt I was still a part of Hawaiian. So when I moved back here, actually they called me to see if I'd be interested in this position. I thought it would be the perfect job for me. I have a really healthy respect for the employees of this company, and watching this company grow into what it is today, I feel it is an industry leader and I was very proud to take this position and come back to Hawaiian.
When I came back to Hawaii, I really wasn't looking for a job.
Q: What will it be like to switch to management from labor?
A: I intend that it will be really valuable exercise for both the union and myself. You have to have open, honest communication and I feel I have that with the union. The unions also know that I was an employee with Hawaiian and that I went through a lot of the hard times with them. I understand the history that they live with, and I think all of that is very beneficial for me in my current position.
Q: Some Hawaiian employees were not happy with the concessions they had to give while Hawaiian was in bankruptcy. What is the state of labor relations now?
A: We're all doing our best to make this company stronger than ever and to meet the challenges that are there. I understand that bankruptcy was difficult for everyone and I can understand that it can be emotionally draining for everyone involved but we're out of bankruptcy and we're flying and doing well and I hope to be able to consistently bridge any gap that there might be between the employees and the company and be there to speak with them and openly address any issues that they may have.
Q: Do employees have concerns about the new interisland carrier backed by Mesa?
A: I think we are all watching them, and it puts us on our toes and we're all doing our best and I think the employees are doing a great job to meet that challenge.
Q: How do you plan to improve labor relations?
A: I'm lucky in that I've stepped back into the company at a time when management has been communicating openly and consistently with the unions and with the employees directly. I feel that everybody gets the latest information about the company as it's going on. That's a great environment for me to work in with the unions. I do keep an ongoing communication with them and I work with them to address issues in a timely way.
Inside Hawaii Inc.
is a weekly conversation with business and community leaders. Suggestions can be sent to email@example.com