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Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Teamsters president
apologizes for threat
of bus strike

'It was like a big poker
game,' Kahele said

By Tim Ruehl
Star-Bulletin staff

Teamsters President Mel Kahele says he is sorry the threat of a bus workers' strike inconvenienced thousands of people on Oahu, but called it a necessary step in contract negotiations.

"My intent was to just apologize to all of the people out there," Kahele said yesterday.

The office of Hawaii Teamsters Local 996 has received hundreds of phone calls questioning the service of TheBus since the union issued a 72-hour strike notice Thursday, Kahele said.

Many callers said they had no simple alternative to riding the bus between work and home, Kahele said. He described most of the calls as sympathetic to the union.

The Teamsters called off the strike notice Saturday after reaching a tentative agreement with managers of Oahu Transit Services Inc., which runs TheBus.

Kahele's apology did not surprise Jim Cowen, Oahu Transit's president and general manager.

"I can understand him doing that," Cowen said. "I think that he should."

Cowen spoke yesterday from San Francisco, where Oahu Transit will receive an award tomorrow for being picked the best large transit system in North America.

Cowen said strike notices are typical of contract negotiations, since both union and management leaders often rely on economic pressure to reach an agreement.

"It's not the union's objective to go on strike," Cowen said.

Kahele said the union gave the notice because he believed Oahu Transit had enough money to pay for higher wages and benefits than the company originally proposed.

"It was like a big poker game," Kahele said.

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