Thursday, November 15, 2001

Unions form
Labor Alliance
to enhance image

The new organization includes
AFL-CIO and independent unions

By Erika Engle

The Hawaii State AFL-CIO wrapped up its 19th biennial convention yesterday with big announcements and the highest-ranking national labor leader to appear in the state in recent memory.

The event at the Sheraton Waikiki was used to introduce the new Labor Alliance of Hawaii, a coalition of more than 135 unions which aims to promote unity and enhance unions' image.

Member-unions include those affiliated with the AFL-CIO, the Building & Construction Trades Council of Hawaii and independent unions which have no affiliations, claiming to represent some 144,000 public and private sector employees statewide.

It was also announced at the convention that Harold Dias, head of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1357, is the incoming president of the State Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO).

The new alliance will be co-chaired by Ron Taketa, financial secretary and business representative of the Hawaii Carpenters Union Local 745 and Russell Okata, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

"It's a good cross-section of all the unions in Hawaii," Taketa said.

Talks that led to creation of the alliance started more than six months ago, Taketa said. The common goal of forming the alliance, he said, was to tell labor's story.

Unions have no control over the economic situation, Taketa said, but have a viable interest in jump-starting the economy in the wake of the terrorist attack.

"Labor (education) is severely neglected in public schools, and the media has been more critical than we deserve," while unions have made contributions to working people and the community in Hawaii, Taketa said.

The alliance will not get involved in politics, he said, and the aim is "purely to improve our image in the public as well as among union members."

Corporations advertise themselves all the time, he said. "Nobody thinks it's fluffy," Taketa said. "But labor unions need to take a page from that type of experience and put our best foot forward."

That foot, in the form of image advertising will make its television debut during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The advertising, handled by Chun & Yonamine Advertising Inc., will eventually be expanded to other media and will be funded through member-unions' voluntary donations, Taketa said.

The prelude to the unveiling of the Labor Alliance and its banner which reads, "The People Who Make Hawaii Work," was a speech by national AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka. "He's an excellent speaker, and speaks from the heart," Taketa said. "He relates to the working men and succeeded in doing that today."

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