Tuesday, March 30, 1999

Union paper
names petitioners
critical of

Publication singles out United
Public Workers members concerned
about use of funds and other issues

By Ian Y. Lind


The United Public Workers has distributed a special edition of its newspaper this month, attacking hundreds of union members who questioned the possible misuse of union funds by UPW State Director Gary Rodrigues.

Malama Pono, the union publication, printed the names and work units of 265 UPW members who signed petitions last year seeking information from union leaders about several matters, including the reported use of union dues to settle a sexual harassment complaint against Rodrigues.

The union newspaper was mailed just a week after the Star-Bulletin reported that three of the union's rank-and-file leaders have asked the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, UPW's parent union, to conduct an investigation of Rodrigues.

The two pages of names printed by the union paper were taken from petitions attached to the complaint to AFSCME, but the article does not mention those petitions or any of the allegations against Rodrigues.

The article charges that the UPW members listed "have caused a division in the union" by agreeing with the Star-Bulletin, which has published a series of stories critical of Rodrigues.

The union refers to the Star-Bulletin as the "Pilau Bulletin," using the Hawaiian word for rotten or putrid.

Among the issues previously raised by the Star-Bulletin:

Bullet Whether Rodrigues unfairly rewarded two women who he had personal relationships with. His current and former secretaries were the highest-paid women on the union staff at the end of 1997.
Bullet Whether union dues were used to settle a sexual harassment complaint against Rodrigues by one of the women.
Bullet Whether Rodrigues personally profited from the construction of three log buildings used for union offices on the neighbor islands. A company owned by Rodrigues was until recently the sole authorized dealer for the Idaho firm that supplied the log building materials.
Bullet Whether UPW funds and personnel were used to build and maintain Rodrigues' log house in Bend, Ore., during union-paid staff "retreats."

The Malama Pono article also suggests the named union members could be responsible if the Legislature fails to fund UPW's contract and pay raises.

"Because very few members buy or read the Pilau Bulletin, it is important that the entire membership know who are the friends of the Pilau Bulletin and their leaders," the article says. "These friends of the Pilau Bulletin could jeopardize the funding of the Unit 1 and 10 Agreements and encourage politicians to pass legislation to steal our jobs or take away our benefits."

Clifford "Chip" Uwaine, UPW's private division director and editor of the newspaper, said he could not comment on the article and referred all questions to Rodrigues, who was "not available," according to union headquarters.

Don Ullrich, a Board of Water Supply employee who was one of those singled out, said the union "is trying to embarrass us and create a further divide among union members."

Ullrich said printing the names of individual members is retaliation and a violation of basic rights guaranteed by the union constitution.

According to the UPW constitution, the bill of rights for union members, "members shall suffer no impairment of freedom of speech concerning the operations of this union. Active discussion of union affairs shall be encouraged and protected within this organization."

Another section guarantees UPW members "the right to a full and clear accounting of all union funds at all levels."

"None of these guys are anti-union," Ullrich said. "They signed a petition asking for information about serious charges involving our union's leader.

"The article doesn't mention that petition, and doesn't mention that the union has refused to answer our questions or respond to our concerns."

Ullrich said members have been told all information relating to the allegations, including minutes of union board meetings, are confidential and will not be disclosed.

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