Tuesday, July 13, 1999

By Star-Bulletin
Gary Rodrigues walks into a room at the Hilton Hawaiian Village today,
where he was to defend himself in a union trial. Asked a question by a
reporter, Rodrigues said to those with him, "You smell something stink
... something pilau?" In a March issue, the UPW newspaper attacked
union members who questioned the possible misuse of union funds
by Rodrigues, and referred to the Star-Bulletin as the Pilau Bulletin
-- using the Hawaiian word for rotten or putrid -- following UPW
issues raised by a Star-Bulletin reporter.

Union trial of
UPW director Gary
Rodrigues ends

Complainants say they can't
get their side out because
of procedures

By Ian Lind


The closed-door union trial of United Public Workers state director Gary Rodrigues ended today after less than five hours, leaving critics of the longtime union boss frustrated, angry and exhausted.

“We’ve got the story, but we’re just not getting it out through this procedure,” said Keith Chudzik, one of three current or former shop stewards who charged Rodrigues with violating the union constitution.

“We were hammered on technicalities,” Chudzik said. “It was a long-draining process of nit-picking.”

Chudzik, along with Keith Faufata and Angel Santiago-Cruz, charged Rodrigues with refusing several times to disclose financial records relating to several questionable transactions, and then using the UPW newsletter to attack members who persisted in raising questions.

The trial was held under the auspices of UPW’s parent union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Bruno Dellana, a 30-year AFSCME veteran from Pennsylvania and an international vice president since 1996, served as the trial officer.

Sitting with Rodrigues during the trial were Clifford “Chip” Uwaine, editor of the union newsletter, and Dwight Takeno, the union’s legislative director.

By Star-Bulletin
UPW members, from left, Keith Chudzik, Angel Santiago-Cruz
and Keith Faufata talk before today's union trial of Rodrigues.

A group of union staff members and some members of the state executive board were also present, along with more than a dozen supporters of the three shop stewards, including many who took vacation to attend.

Rodrigues refused to comment on the charges or the trial. He has refused to answer questions about these and related matters since last year.

Chudzik said Rodrigues failed to produce any documents or information requested before the trial. During today’s proceedings, Rodrigues said the records did not exist, were not pertinent to the charges, or should have been requested from other union staff, observers reported.

Chudzik and other trial observers said Rodrigues made effective use of knowledge gained during four terms on AFSCME’s judicial panel to control the proceedings and shift the focus away from the charges.

Rodrigues battered witnesses with an aggressive style, along with questions and comments that ranged from technical to abusive, observers reported.

While questioning Santiago-Cruz about a critical petition circulated among UPW members last year, Rodrigues asked about a particular sentence. When Santiago-Cruz went to a different sentence, Rodrigues said: “Can’t you count?”

Rodrigues, long considered to be one of the state’s most politically influential labor leaders, also seized the opportunity to attack the loyalties and motives of his accusers, calling them “agents for those who are anti-worker.”

He also accused Chudzik of challenging him in order to earn a promotion.

“He made us feel foolish,” one union member said later.

Tom Young, a Board of Water Supply employee, walked out angrily an hour before the trial ended.

“He (Rodrigues) shows no respect to the man in charge or the rank and file of his own union. He’s running the hearing through his tactics, words, his innuendoes and demeanor, but he’s not being forthcoming,” Young said.

“This reinforces the rank-and-file perception that people with money can influence the system and buy their way out of anything,” Young said.

Dellana, the trial officer, would not comment on the proceedings. Under union rules, he now has 30 days to issue a ruling.

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