Saturday, August 14, 1999

Isle UPW chief
will learn soon if
he can keep job

A union tribunal heard charges
that Rodrigues violated members'
rights and misused union funds

By Ian Lind


A union tribunal that will determine whether longtime United Public Workers director Gary Rodrigues will hold onto his job could announce its decision as early as next week.

Rodrigues faced a one-day hearing in Honolulu on Aug. 13 after three current or former UPW chief stewards charged that he violated the rights of UPW members by failing to disclose union records related to several questionable financial transactions, and then using the union's newsletter to attack members who signed a petition critical of his leadership.

Procedures of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, UPW's parent union, call for a decision to be made within 30 days and transmitted to the parties by registered mail.

If he is found guilty, Rodrigues could face sanctions ranging from a simple reprimand to removal from his position as leader of the state's second largest public employee union.

During the hearing, Rodrigues justified his failure to respond to questions or turn over union records by likening himself to a union member accused of theft by an employer, according to several accounts of the hearing, which was attended by dozens of UPW members and staff.

In that type of case, the union would demand the employer prove the charges before taking any action, while the employee would not have to provide a defense.

Rodrigues argued he has the same rights and therefore union policy does not require him to prove his innocence.

Eight UPW members were called as witnesses in the hearing, including the three who filed charges.

The witnesses cited questions raised by a series of stories published by the Star-Bulletin since last year, which has reported:

Bullet A sexual harassment complaint was lodged against Rodrigues by his former secretary, and union members questioned whether UPW funds were used to reach a reported settlement.
Bullet A company owned by Rodrigues was the sole authorized dealer in Hawaii for an Idaho firm that supplied log building materials used to construct union halls on three neighbor islands. Union members have questioned whether Rodrigues profited from those deals.
Bullet Union staff did maintenance and construction tasks on a home owned by Rodrigues in Bend, Ore., during staff "retreats" held over a period of years.

Repeated questions raised by UPW members about these transactions went unanswered, according to the witnesses.

Rodrigues attacked his critics during the hearing, calling them agents of the Star-Bulletin and part of a conspiracy to undermine the union, but did not present any evidence of his conspiracy theory.

Testimony during the hearing indicated that Rodrigues has little interaction with UPW members.

He did not attend meetings of the Oahu Division Executive Board over a period of months when members were attempting to raise questions, and Rodrigues confirmed in the hearing a policy of not responding to questions from members unless they are put in writing

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