Wednesday, April 28, 1999

Union newsletter
attacks members
who want costs

Three UPW leaders take heat
for seeking a detailed accounting
of spending by director Gary Rodrigues

By Ian Y. Lind


Three rank-and-file leaders of the United Public Workers have demanded UPW state director Gary Rodrigues retract an article in the union newsletter that they say smeared the reputations of hundreds of UPW members.

Instead of a retraction, the union this week distributed another issue of its newsletter, Malama Pono, accusing the three of "obstructing the mission" of the state director by attempting to discredit Rodrigues.

In an April 3 letter addressed to Rodrigues, the three current or former chief stewards -- Keith Faufata, Angel Santiago-Cruz, and Keith Chudzik -- called the original newsletter article "a gross and intentional distortion of our political sentiment written with the intent to retaliate against UPW members who want nothing more than an honest explanation and accounting of their dues money and how it was spent or misspent."

The newsletter article had accused 265 UPW members of causing a division in the union that could benefit enemies of labor, and listed their names and employing agencies.

But those charges are false, the stewards' letter says.

"You knowingly misrepresented our motivation, and sought to destroy our integrity within our union when, in fact, we were simply pursuing answers to serious fiduciary questions," the letter states.

The UPW members named in the newsletter are not anti-union, but had signed petitions seeking an accounting of union funds following a series of Star-Bulletin investigative articles.

According to the letter, the members are seeking disclosure of:

Bullet A detailed accounting of costs of union halls on the neighbor islands and any profits made by Log Structures Inc., a company owned by Rodrigues that was the sole authorized dealer for log building materials.
Bullet Union expenses incurred as a result of using UPW staff to maintain an Oregon home owned by Rodrigues.
Bullet The cost and circumstances of a reported sexual harassment incident involving Rodrigues and his former secretary.

The letter accuses Rodrigues of retaliating against those who have continued to ask questions.

"The report sent to all UPW members was untrue, known to be untrue before it was written, and attempted to humiliate, discriminate, and retaliate against certain members," the stewards said in a statement they sought to have published by UPW.

Faufata and Santiago-Cruz are elected chief stewards representing UPW members in two city offices. Chudzik recently resigned as chief steward at the Board of Water Supply after winning a promotion to another city job.

Copies of the letter and statement were recently obtained by the Star-Bulletin after being posted on a union bulletin board.

In their written statement intended for publication, the three men describe themselves as strong supporters of their union.

"But when there are reports of scandal and misuse of our money by the state director, it is our duty, as chief stewards and members, to get the answers no matter how painful or unpopular that is to UPW leadership staff," they wrote.

UPW's parent union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, earlier this year declined to independently investigate published allegations concerning Rodrigues unless formal charges were filed against him by one or more UPW members under the provisions of the union constitution.

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