Tuesday, September 14, 1999

Rodrigues could face
more charges

The issue: A union hearing officer has cleared UPW Director Gary Rodrigues on charges that he violated the rights of union members.

Bullet Our view: Rodrigues is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, which may prove more difficult to deal with.

Gary Rodrigues has been cleared of charges that as director of the United Public Workers union he violated the rights of union members. A hearing officer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the UPW's parent union, ruled Rodrigues and Clifford "Chip" Uwaine, editor of the UPW newsletter, not guilty on all charges.

However, Rodrigues still faces an investigation by the federal Department of Labor on another issue. There is still a chance that he will be held to account for at least some of his abuses of power.

The AFSCME hearing involved charges that Rodrigues and Uwaine had used the union newsletter to attack union members who criticized what they said were questionable financial transactions by Rodrigues. The complainants, all current or former UPW chief stewards, also charged that they had been denied access to union minutes and financial records.

Incredibly, the hearing officer said Rodrigues had the First Amendment right of free speech to answer his critics. This ruling ignored the responsibility of Rodrigues and Uwaine to treat other union members fairly in the newsletter. Instead they smeared Rodrigues' critics. This was not a question of freedom of speech; it was abuse of power.

In addition, the officer found that the stewards had failed to prove that they had requested and been denied access to union financial records, even though eight union members testified under oath that they had tried to obtain the records. And he found that Rodrigues could not be held responsible for the UPW executive board's decision to prevent union members from examining minutes of board meetings, even if he instigated that decision.

It added up to a total whitewash. An independent critic of AFSCME commented that the union's internal disciplinary procedures favor the current leadership, and that certainly seemed to be the case here.

To uphold the denial of union members' requests to examine minutes of executive board meetings and financial records is outrageous.

The Labor Department investigation concerned Rodrigues' ties to a company that supplied log building materials for UPW offices on three neighbor islands. Federal law requires union officials to disclose possible conflicts of interest annually.

Log Structures Inc., a company headed by Rodrigues, was listed for a decade as the only authorized dealer in Hawaii for Lodge Log Homes, an Idaho-based company that supplied materials for the three UPW buildings.

Another issue apparently under investigation concerns payments made by the union's health insurance provider to a company owned by one of Rodrigues' daughters.

Rodrigues may find U.S. Department of Labor investigators more of a challenge than the AFSCME hearing officer.

Peacekeeping force
OK’d for East Timor

The issue: Indonesian President Habibie has approved an international peacekeeping force for East Timor but there is opposition to inclusion of Australia.

Bullet Our view: The United Nations must insist that Indonesia permit Australia to lead the peacekeepers.

INDONESIA'S president has bowed to pressure from the world community and agreed to accept international peacekeepers for East Timor. But President B.J. Habibie seems to have lost control of the armed forces and it is uncertain that the generals will cooperate.

In any case, the details of the deployment of a peacekeeping force, including such crucial matters as its composition, mission and authority, have yet to be worked out. This could take weeks.

In the meantime, the people of East Timor continue to be terrorized by pro-government militias, apparently encouraged by the army. With hundreds of thousands hiding in the hills of East Timor without food or water, immediate action is needed.

Habibie, who was appointed last year to succeed the discredited Suharto, has little popular support and may be forced to step down when the newly elected parliament meets to choose a president. He seems incapable of governing the largest country in Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile a backlash against intervention is growing. In Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, 400 people stormed an Australian state government's trade liaison office. Australia has been the most vocal advocate of a peacekeeping force in East Timor.

Akbar Tanjung, chairman of the ruling Golkar Party, said five countries -- Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada and Portugal -- should be denied a role in the peacekeeping force.

Brig. Gen. Sudradjat, the chief spokesman for the armed forces, went on television to express the military's opposition to the Australians.

Australia has assembled 4,500 soldiers and equipment in Darwin on 24-hour alert, just an hour's flight from East Timor. Australia has emerged as the probable leader of a peacekeeping force. The United Nations must insist that the Indonesians accept the Australian presence.

The Clinton administration has gone in a few days from disavowing any intention of participating in the peacekeeping effort to cautious acceptance of a supporting role. Its initial reluctance to get involved apparently stemmed from a desire to preserve relations with the Jakarta government.

Fortunately the Australians, who are neighbors of the Indonesians and have much more at stake in their relations with Jakarta, have been much bolder than Washington in this crisis. They should be applauded for their leadership.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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