Pa'ahui Unions
PA'AHUI UNIONS:
THE HAWAI'I STATE AFL-CIO
1966 - 1991

Prepared by
The Center for Labor Education & Research
University of Hawai'i
for the Hawaii State AFL-CIO

Copyright © 1991, Hawaii State AFL-CIO All Rights Reserved

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This history has been written with the support and encouragement of President Gary Rodrigues of the Hawaii State AFL-CIO. The staff assistance and the free access he provided to all official records and files have greatly contributed to its accuracy.

The chief writer and editor was William J. Puette, Labor Education Specialist at the Center for Labor Education and Research. Dr. Puette's other works include: Labor Dispute Picketing: Organizing a Legal Picket in Hawaii (UH, 1984); The Hilo Massacre (UH, 1989); and Through Jaundiced Eyes: Organized Labor in the Media (Cornell ILR Press, 1992).

In addition, this study could not have been written without the inestimable support and research assistance provided by Ethel Miyachi of the Hawaii State AFL-CIO. Ms. Miyachi conducted many interviews and scanned through mountains of correspondence, reports and minutes that she had carefully collected over the years.

Robert K. Hasegawa, former Director of the University of Hawaii's Center for Labor Education and Research, was the third indispensable member of the research team. His personal recollections and massive personal archives filled in many blanks and supplied much of the information provided here about the Central Labor Council. In addition, as the former Director of the State's Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Mr. Hasegawa provided the data and tables included in the Appendix.

We are grateful also to the ILWU for providing access to that union's most formidable library, and acknowledge with appreciation the editorial assistance of HGEA's Randy Kusaka and COPE Director Roy Takumi, both of whom generously volunteered considerable time and professional advice in the final preparation of this document.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
        PART I: Central Labor Council to State Fed
        PART II: Carl Guntert, 1966 - 1967
        PART III: Francis Kennedy, 1967 - 1969
        PART IV: Walter Kupau, 1969 - 1984
        PART V: Gary Rodrigues, 1985 - Present
        EPILOGUE: Pa 'a Hui Unions

Part I: Central Labor Council to State Fed

Though the Hawaii State AFL-CIO has been in operation since 1966, AFL unions began organizing into a central body as early as 1903. In those days trade unions barely represented a thousand workers, and this first attempt at forming a Central Council was short-lived. By the 1920s, unable to collect per capita dues, the first council, which had been organized primarily to oppose immigration legislation, was abandoned, doomed by its failure to welcome orientals into its ranks.

By the mid-'30s trade unions in Hawaii had reorganized substantially, eliminating the old "racial unions" that had kept them weak and small, and integrating local races into their ranks. With the new support of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's landmark national labor legislation, unions throughout the territory were poised to organize craft workers on an island wide scale. On the other hand, employer resistance was great. On Aug. 1, 1938, the same day that unarmed AFL and CIO unionists were attacked by police in Hilo at a sympathy march for Honolulu strikers trying to organize the Inter-Island Steamship Company, 19 of Hawaii's AFL locals were chartered as the Central Labor Council of Honolulu.

  1. International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders and Helpers, Local 204.
  2. International Molders Union of North America, Local 350.
  3. United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, Local 745.
  4. Amalgamated Association of Street Electric Railway and Motor Coach Employees of America, Division 1173.
  5. Hotel Restaurant and Bartenders Union, Local 5
  6. Musicians Association of Honolulu, Local 667.
  7. Wood, Wire and Metal Lathers International Union, Local 491-7.
  8. Operative Plasterers and Cement Finishers' International Association Local 630.
  9. Waterfront Workers Association, Federal Labor Union, Local 20906.
  10. International Association of Machinists, Local 1245.
  11. United Association of Journeymen Plumbers and Steamfitters of the United States and Canada, Local 675.
  12. Butchers and Meatcutters.
  13. Metal Trades Council.
  14. Motion Picture Operators, Local 665.
  15. Laborers and Hod Carriers Union, Local 533.
  16. Honolulu Typographical Union, Local 37.
  17. Brewery Workers of Honolulu, Local 22052.
  18. Sailors Union of the Pacific.
  19. Journeymen Barbers International Union of America, Local 895.
Sadly, the original AFL charter has been lost, and no minutes of their meetings are available. But the record does indicate that Jack Owens, an organizer sent by the national AFL, was the prime-mover. Early on, though, local leaders like Ruben Ortiz of the Brewery Workers, Robert McElrath of the Marine Engineering and Drydock Workers Union, and Arthur Rutledge of the Bartenders Union took over the leadership. Charles Wright of the Amalgamated 1173, representing transit workers, was the first recorded president of the council in 1940.

When World War II broke, the council put its agenda on hold and remained dormant until 1943 when it reorganized and set political action as its primary goal. Actually, most of the AFL unions grew considerably during the war years as Hawaii joined the country in gearing up to win the war. As a result, AFL union leaders were appointed to many war time agencies and, in the words of one historian, "achieved a significant voice in local affairs."1

After the war, however, the defense industry boom that had swelled the AFL membership books subsided, and craft unions in Hawaii declined rapidly. In 1944 it was estimated the AFL claimed 15,000 workers, but by 1956 that number had dwindled to just about half that size. Meanwhile the non-affiliated ILWU continued to grow, and by the mid-Fifties represented an estimated 25,000 workers throughout the Territory.

Not long after the merger of the AFL with the CIO, the Central Labor Council of Honolulu was rechartered on Nov. 12, 1957 with Carl J. Guntert of the Machinists Union as its new president [see Charter]. The merger, it seems, was just the shot in the arm the council needed. The AFL's old prejudice against organizing unskilled labor was put aside and the AFL-CIO unions once again began to grow.

In 1958 the council's executive board hired David McClung, a former business agent with IBEW Local 1260, as its first full-time representative. His title was changed a year later to executive secretary-treasurer. In 1959 McClung was elected to the first state legislature and Robert Hasegawa, a business agent with IBEW 1186, took McClung's place. Under McClung and Hasegawa, the council strengthened the authority and power of the executive secretary to make that position a clear and vocal spokesperson.

In 1963 Hasegawa was picked by Governor John A. Burns to serve as deputy director of the state's Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, and Harry Boranian of the Brewery Workers was chosen as the council's last executive secretary.

The birth of the Hawaii State AFL-CIO, formerly the Hawaii State Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, may be traced back to the arrival of Miles Stanley, an assistant to George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO.

Stanley was Meany's personal emissary to Hawaii and sent here to urge AFL-CIO locals both in and out of the Central Labor Council to form a state federation. An earlier attempt by the national AFL-CIO at organizing a state federation of labor in the islands, made just after Hawaii gained statehood, had been abandoned because the Central Labor Council was already doing most of the work of a state federation and enjoyed the support of most of the state's locals.

By 1966, Hawaii was the only state that did not yet have a state body. While it is true that in 1964, under Harry Boranian, the council began calling itself the Central Labor Council of Hawaii instead of the Honolulu Central Labor Council, it was almost entirely composed of its Oahu Division. At the founding convention in January 1966, less than 800 membership votes (4 percent of the total) had been allocated to the three neighbor island counties based on per capita dues, while the Oahu/Honolulu membership allocation was more than 20,000. In that same year, according to figures cited by Mayor Neal S. Blaisdell in his opening remarks to the conventioneers, just under 80,000 of the state's 260,000 workers were unionized.

Even allowing for the fact that the AFL-CIO unions were underestimating their membership to minimize their per capita dues, the independent unions, at that time principally the ILWU and the Teamsters, represented the lion's share of the state's organized workers. The challenges to the state AFL-CIO were clear and unambiguous, particularly on the neighbor islands.

Not surprisingly, Meany was adamant that the Central Labor Council was not properly constituted to serve the needs of the whole state. To Meany, the problems plaguing the council in the two years of Boranian's administration were ample proof of the need for a new and fresh start for the AFL-CIO in Hawaii.

Even beyond the problems of organizing craft unions on the neighbor islands, the single biggest problem of the AFL-CIO in Hawaii was its traditional difficulty in forming a unified political agenda and credible lobbying voice. The previous two years in particular saw a bitter dispute in the council over the direction Boranian had taken in politics.

The underlying desire of the affiliates for a considerable amount of political autonomy was always a source of friction between the affiliates and whoever was leading the state federation.

Meany was less concerned with the divisions affecting local politics than with the fact that Hawaii's two senate seats in Congress were split. The call went out to 114 different labor unions for a convention to be held at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel beginning Jan. 7, 1966. Response came from more than 160 delegates, including 14 women, who represented 44 labor unions and two trade councils. They met for three days and founded the Hawaii State Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

As Stanley noted in his address to the founding conventioneers,

...we can help win the war on poverty by repealing Section 14-B of the Taft-Hartley Act which retards organizing efforts in right-to-work states and thus keep workers' income at a level far below states which do not have this nefarious law.... and I would like to say to you that we need the votes of both of the United States Senators from Hawaii plus 65 more just to get a vote on this bill. On the last vote which closed debate just prior to adjournment last fall, the two Senators from your state split on this issue, which is of prime concern to the labor movement. The Central Labor Council, for all its accomplishments, had not been able to forge the necessary labor alliance to solidify the national COPE endorsements. The Hawaii State Federation was dedicated to achieving the political unity needed to bring all the affiliate unions together at least on the national issues, and as many statewide issues as possible.
With Stanley's help, Boranian prepared the necessary documents to transfer the council's assets and debts to the new federation.

The new federation was organized much more democratically than the council, which had placed a large amount of decision-making authority in the office of executive secretary. The federation gave primary authority to the president and executive board.

The constitution, prepared by Stanley, called for the election of a president, an executive secretary-treasurer, nine vice presidents to represent Oahu and one vice president each for Hawaii, Kauai and Maui. These officers would form an executive board which would have full power to establish policies and to speak for all AFL-CIO locals in the federation, including endorsing candidates for political office.

The constitution also provided for a salaried staff comprised of a secretary-treasurer, a legislative representative and a political education director. It also called for each local to pay per capita dues of 15 cents a month.

Letters were sent out to all 114 labor organizations and efforts were made to get all of the AFL-CIO locals in Hawaii to join the organization.

The reason for the big push then was a unique political opportunity. A recent reapportionment of the Senate meant that legislative power would be drained from the neighbor islands and be concentrated on Oahu. Oahu already elected the majority of House members, as a result of changes made several years before.

Since the AFL-CIO membership-now larger than that of the ILWU was concentrated on Oahu while the ILWU was concentrated on the neighbor islands, a tightly-knit organization could make the AFL-CIO a political force to be reckoned with and for the first time rival the ILWU's powerful political force.

The founding convention, therefore, adopted a new set of bylaws for its Committee on Political Education (COPE), which set up a Women's Activities Department, whose director would be on the committee along with the federation's executive board and the AFL-CIO's area COPE director.

When their work was done, the charter, dated Jan. 9, 1966, was inscribed with the names of the following officers elected at the convention:

President: Carl J. Guntert, IAM, Lodge 1245

Vice Presidents - O'ahu:
      John K. Cabral, AFGE, Local 882
      James Chock, HERE, Local 5
      Akito Fujikawa, IBEW, Local 1186
      John Haleamau, Marine Firemen
      Francis J. Kennedy, IBEW, Local 1260
      Susan Marshall, American Guild of Variety Artists
      Ivanhoe K. Naiwi, Meat Cutters, Local 594
      Charles K. O'Bevan, Typographical Union, Local 37
      Elmo Samson, Laborers, Local 368
      Lawrence M. Shigeura, Carpenters, Local 745

Vice President - Hawai'i
      Elmer Vieira, IBEW, Local 1260

Vice President - Kaua'i
      Ralph M. Makanani, IBEW, Local 1260

Vice President - Maui
      Monte Carpenter, HERE, Local 5

In addition, Boranian was invited to sign the charter, acknowledging the continuity of the transition from the council to the federation. AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer William C. Schnitzler, in a letter dated Jan. 24, stated:

On behalf of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, we wish to extend to you and your organization, and its member locals and councils, our hearty congratulations upon the establishment of your State Central Body.

We are confident that the closer and more effective alliance formed thereby will contribute greatly to the advancement of the interests of the AFL-CIO members in Hawaii as well as to the welfare of the State of Hawaii as a whole and the progress of the labor movement generally.

_______________
1 Edward Johannessen, The Hawaiian Labor Movement: A Brief History (Boston: Bruce Humphries, Inc., 1956) 103.

[photo of Miles Stanley, George Meany's rep. addressing the delegates at the Founding Convention of the HI State Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, Jan.7, 1966]

[photos of Charter Members, January 1966]

 

Part II: Carl Guntert, 1966-1967

Carl Guntert Hawaii's new State Federation initially moved into the former offices of the Central Labor Council at 333 North King St. President Carl Guntert's first job was to organize the executive board and appoint the federation's first secretary.

The founding convention had been marked by a bitter rivalry between two major factions. The winning slate was controlled largely by Local 5 of the Hotel Workers, Local 1260 of the Electrical Workers and Local 745 of the Carpenters Union, the three largest locals represented. A minority slate, representing mostly building trades unions and led by Jack Reynolds, was unable to win a single seat on the new board.

Guntert had a very difficult job ahead in order to reunify the affiliates and build up the political power of the new federation.

Though his administration of the State Federation was relatively short, it was filled with activities and set the high standard for leadership that would give the AFL-CIO the momentum needed to grow in size and influence over the years.

A senior business representative of Machinists Lodge 1245, Guntert was no stranger to leadership. He had been the first president of the newly chartered Central Labor Council after the AFL-CIO merger and was one of a handful of labor leaders at the convention who was respected, if not supported, by affiliates from both sides of the rival factions.

His greatest handicap, however, was the lop-sided make up of the new executive board. The total absence of representation from the unions on the opposing slate at the convention would make it increasingly difficult to maintain unity and unanimity in federation activities and endorsements.

The Executive Committee met often in the first few months of 1966 to search for an executive secretary and a COPE and Women's Activities director. In that interim, Boranian served unofficially as the committee's administrative assistant. At first labor attorney Alvin Shim was offered the job of executive secretary, but he was unable to accept appointment.

Shim had been a candidate for the state Democratic party chairmanship in 1962, a post won by William S. Richardson. Shim, an attorney associated with Thomas Gill and David McClung at that time, was accused of being part of a faction trying to get control of the party. Shim's comments to news reporters on March 4 were: "I was offered the job, but I declined." Executive board minutes reveal that he was experiencing health problems at the time and did not feel he was up to the challenges facing that position.

A few weeks later, on March 25, Guntert announced the appointment of Gordon H. Beach, a community services publicist from Las Vegas, as the State Federation's first executive secretary-treasurer effective April 1. There was some opposition to his selection on the grounds that he lacked the necessary labor background, but Guntert believed Beach's experience in dealing with the media was more valuable to the federation at that time.

Guntert had placed a high priority on improving the public image of labor and the need for the federation to be in the forefront of worker protective and community service activities not available from affiliates.

During his administration of the Federation, the "Hawaii AFL-CIO News" became a regular monthly publication reaching all members.

Boycotts

Though political action was the primary focus of the new federation, traditional issues of union solidarity and mutual support received full attention as well. At the Oahu Division meeting held April 5, a consumer boycott to support Meat Cutters, Local 594, was unanimously approved. Eight employees of the company went on strike April 4 over a first time contract. Every effort was used by the State Federation to discourage union members and families from purchasing products handled by or through Hawaii Meat Company.

In July the Oahu Division also called its first boycott of First Insurance Company for circumventing the spirit and intent of the state's workers' compensation law. The board was angered by First Insurance's continuous resort to expensive litigation of injured workers' claims and refusal to take part in appeals hearings.

Women's Auxiliary Director Appointed

Back in the '60s women represented a much smaller percentage of the workforce, and yet women had figured prominently in the history of the American labor movement. As early as the '30s the wives, sisters and mothers of longshoremen had formed local women's auxiliaries in Hilo and on Kauai to join the long struggle for union recognition that marked that era.

By 1966 women had established positions within many local unions. Susan Mitchell of the teachers' union was a charter representative of the federation, and the leadership of the State Federation immediately recognized the value of family auxiliaries in promoting the social as well as political traditions and values of trade unionism.

Betty Lunceford came to Honolulu on May 10, 1966 to accept the position of acting director of the AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education (COPE) and director of the Women's Auxiliary Division (W.A.D.) of COPE.

As the first full-paid employee of COPE, Lunceford's first big job was to prepare for the AFL-CIO's COPE convention which was held Sept. 3. She also led the federation's first voter registration drive and helped organize several women's auxiliaries in affiliate locals.

The first members of the State's auxiliary included Susan Marshall, president from AGVA; Arlene Janicki, vice president from the Laborers Union; Donnalee DeCastro, secretary from Machinists, Lodge 1245; and Pelisa Salvador, treasurer, also from the Laborers Union. They worked with the COPE director throughout the elections and toward the end of the year organized a Christmas "Gifts for the Handicapped" project.

Labor Education

Another first that marked the first year of the federation was a special educational seminar at the University of Hawaii's Kuykendall Hall held July 22-24. The three-day seminar entitled, "Labors' Stake in Hawaii," was attended by more than 70 delegates from affiliated unions.

Speakers, including Gov. Burns, Mayor Blaisdell and Dr. Harold Roberts of the university's college of business, addressed the delegates on economic development, public education, political action, the consequences of reapportionment, Hawaii's youths' views of organized labor, consumer protection and community services.

About this time it became clear that Gordon Beach was having difficulty holding the support of all the unions. After less that four months on the job, Beach resigned. Citing only personal reasons in his official resignation, it was clear that he lacked the "labor credentials" and the sensitivity to Hawaii's local style necessary to have credibility with most of the union leadership.

Robert C. Knight succeeded Beach as executive secretary-treasurer on Sept. 3. He had come to Hawaii in April from San Diego at the urging of Rutledge to set up the community services department for Unity House.

Knight, who was more willing to accept the executive board's authority than Beach had been, fared much better as executive secretary. His appointment was announced at the federation's first COPE convention at the Ilikai Hotel. There were 119 delegates representing 35 locals and one council. COPE was comprised of officers, executive board members, and the COPE director, and the delegates endorsed incumbent gubernatorial candidate Burns and his running mate for lieutenant governor, Gill. Also endorsed were U. S. Representatives Spark M. Matsunaga and Patsy T. Mink, along with 16 candidates for the state Senate and 37 for the state House.

When the dust settled on the election in November, the State Federation had achieved stunning victories in more state races than ever before. In all, 75 of 93 candidates endorsed had been elected, and the AFL-CIO had established a new respect in the legislature as a strong and influential voice for working people.

New Additions to the Executive Board

Two new vice-presidents were elected to the executive board at a special state board meeting. Walter Kupau replaced Larry Shigeura of the Carpenters Union, Local 745, and Rutledge replaced James Chock of the Hotel Workers, Local 5. And in 1967 Fumi Ige was appointed to the Federation staff as COPE coordinator.

Strikes

It was a busy year for several building trades unions as several strikes occurred this year:

Robert Knight, executive secretary-treasurer, was able to write proudly to Meany in 1967 that as the time approached for the federation to hold its second convention, "progress has been made in a relatively short time by this the newest and smallest of the state federations. We have complete a successful COPE primary and general election, have established a newspaper and have recently concluded a productive legislative lobby in the 1967 legislative session."

Indeed, considering all the internal rivalries that had continued to plague the federation as they had the CLC, the new Hawaii State Federation of Labor had come a long way and clearly demonstrated, even to its detractors, that labor in Hawaii was ready and willing to work together.

[pictures of members of the Federation's first Women's Auxiliary and State Fed. Lobbyist: Jack Reynolds, Blackie Fujikawa, Walter Kupau]

 

Part III: Francis J. Kennedy, 1967-1969

Francis Kennedy, Sr. The second biennial convention of the federation was held in 1967 on Sept. 22-24, 1967 at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel. Some 150 delegates representing 47 local unions attended.

Francis J. Kennedy, business manager of IBEW, Local 1260, was unanimously elected president during the convention. He succeeded Carl J. Guntert, who was elected to a vice presidency.

New vice presidents elected, in addition to Guntert, were: Jack C. Reynolds, Building Trades, who was also elected chairman of the Oahu Division executive board; Stanley Yanagi, Carpenters Local 745; John Montrone, Painters Local 1791; and Ben Matsubara, Hawaii Division, IBEW Local 1414.

Vice presidents reelected were: John Haleamau, Marine Firemen; John K. Cabral, AFGE Local 882; Arthur A. Rutledge, Local 5 Hotel and Restaurant Workers; Akito "Blackie" Fujikawa, IBEW Local 1186; Ivanhoe Naiwi, Meat Cutters Local 594; Elmo Samson, Laborers Local 368; Robert (Monte) Carpenter, Hotel Workers, vice president Maui Division; and Ralph Makanani, IBEW 1260, vice president Kauai Division.

Other board members were: July Simeona of IBEW Local 1260, Richard Tarn of Hotel Workers Local 5, Frederick Lee of Newspaper Guild Local 117, Jack L. Copess of Boilermakers Local 204, and Mogul K. Crabbe of Fire Fighters Local 1463.

Kennedy, who had been business manager-financial secretary of IBEW 1260 since shortly after World War II, was the leader of one of the state's largest locals, representing public utility electrical workers on Oahu as well as the neighbor islands. He had been a major voice in the former Central Labor Council, serving on its executive board from 1958. His alliance with Rutledge of the Hotel Workers and Yanagi of the Carpenters forged the winning slate of board members at the founding convention the year before. Kennedy's election to the presidency signaled a shift in the balance of power on the board between him and Rutledge. As a result, the ultimate test of his leadership in the coming months would be his ability to muster the support of the Rutledge unions as well as some of the smaller locals who were beginning to feel overwhelmed by the huge voice held by the unions represented on the board.

The convention changed the federation's organizational structure, formalizing the island divisions and giving them more authority and autonomy. The day-to-day operations of the State Federation were streamlined considerably by the institution of a new executive committee of just three board members, the president and executive secretary-treasurer.

Delegates adopted approximately 40 resolutions during the convention which represented a broad program for legislative action at the state and federal levels.

The resolutions dealt with a wide range of worker and consumer protective legislation, such as a code of ethics, garnishment regulations, an office of ombudsman, housing for low/medium income families, credit insurance rate control, truth in lending and packaging, and a law to permit shoppers to receive cash in lieu of trading stamps. Typically, the local papers chose to headline, instead, a resolution seeking the legalization of cockfights and lotteries.

One sensitive political resolution that didn't pass was a motion to censure U.S. Sen. Hiram Fong. Jack Reynolds of the Building Trades objected to the resolution which described Pong's voting record as "a disgrace." Reynolds' objection was on technical grounds that the resolution had not been routed properly, but clearly revealed a lack of consensus on the issue.

Another action of the convention was the adoption of a resolution asking Lt. Gov. Thomas Gill to investigate the possibility of going to court to gain Hawaii relief from an oil import quota that was costing citizens millions annually. There had been an ongoing fight waged by the AFL-CIO over the past 12 months.

In the session that followed, 27 labor-supported bills were passed by the legislature. Many bills the federation supported failed to pass, including an increase in the minimum wage, a truth in packaging and truth in lending law, water fluoridation, and an eight-hour day law. But over-all the AFL-CIO lobbying agenda was successful in advancing the welfare of the working men and women of the state.

The Maritime Trades Council of Honolulu was reactivated in July. Jim Murphy of the Marine Firemen's Union was the elected president and Charlie Russo, port agent for the Sailors Union of the Pacific, was the council's secretary. On hand for the reactivation were Joe Lii, Inland Boatmen's Union; Francis Militante, Military Sea Transport Union; John Haleamau, Marine Firemen's Union; and Earl Lee, Marine Cooks and Stewards Union.

In addition to this new council, the Service Employees Union Local 530 became a new affiliate of the federation in August.

State Federation's New Office

The State Federation moved its headquarters from the former Oahu Railway Building at 333 N. King Street to 547 Halekauwila Street in Honolulu on Nov. 1, 1967. Occupying both floors, the new facilities included a mail room on the ground floor and office space in rooms 215 and 216 for the receptionist, the COPE director, and the State Fed News editor, a position then held by Dick Habein.

Federation Opposition to Irresponsible Development

It is generally assumed that labor unions always support construction projects no matter what the effect, cost or impact may be to the community. But the Oahu Division of the State Federation came out strongly in January 1968 against the proposed municipal stadium to be built at Halawa. The division believed that the proposed $20 million estimated to be the cost of the stadium would be wasted tax dollars that should be spent for other public services which were more urgently needed.

Similarly, the State Federation officially announced its opposition to any further high rise construction in the Diamond Head area. Robert Knight of the federation wrote to Mayor Neal S. Blaisdell expressing opposition to "high density" development, noting that this position was taken in spite of the immediate advantages to the many building trades unionists unemployed in the prevailing construction slump, and in spite of the promise of thousands of jobs potentially open to hotel worker organizing.

Legislative Session

With the 1968 legislative session a budgetary one, a number of the 14 measures sponsored or endorsed by the federation met with some difficulty. However, in light of the fact that these were not budgetary matters and had to be classified as "urgency" measures by a two-thirds vote in both houses before they could even be considered, the federation did not fare too badly.

Passed were a legislative appropriation of $50,000 for the Attorney General's Office to hire outside, expert legal counsel needed to file an anti-trust suit against oil companies and to win Hawaii freedom from the Oil Import Quota; an increase from $60,000 to $150,000 in the state appropriation to aid the Honolulu Symphony; money to establish a branch office of the state Labor Department in Kona to facilitate handling matters such as job-finding for workers and unemployment insurance; an increase in the number of industrial safety inspectors; state tax relief for workers with overseas jobs and for workers or survivors receiving pensions; a resolution calling for a study of ways to provide low-cost housing; and many other consumer protective bills.

With its March 1968 issue, the Hawaii AFL-CIO newspaper was renamed Hawaii AFL-CIO News. The former name Hawaii State Fed News. AFL-CIO. seemed too cumbersome to the executive board. The board also decided to incorporate the newspaper as a separate but wholly owned subsidiary of the federation and incorporated the paper with the State of Hawaii. Not long afterwards, unfortunately, Dick Habein, the paper's editor since 1966, left in mid-July after a bitter contract dispute with the executive board.

AFL-CIO Welcomes President Johnson

A presidential visit is always a rare event in Hawaii, and the opportunity to rally around a president with a good labor record is rarer still, so one of the most exciting events of 1968 was the May visit to Hawaii of President Lyndon Johnson. Members of the federation gave a warm welcome to Johnson during his brief visit to the islands. The welcome was arranged on short notice by the staff of the federation, Laborers Union, Carpenters Union, the Marine Cooks and Stewards, the Hawaii Fire Fighters Union, the Meat Cutters Union, Iron Workers Union Local 624 and the Inland Boatmen's Union.

It was a stirring occasion with 200 hand-painted signs prepared by the carpenters and flags waved by hundreds of union members as they welcomed the head of our nation.

The presence of a solid line of AFL-CIO members at lolani Palace prevented disruption of the President's speech by angry war protestors.

The display caused Mayor Blaisdell to congratulate "the entire membership of the Hawaii State Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, for the outstanding job in insuring a warm and gracious welcome to President Johnson."

Community Services

The tradition of community service begun under President Guntert was continued under President Kennedy. Many worthwhile projects were undertaken in 1967 and 1968, but one of the most noteworthy was the coordinated project organized through the Building Trades to build up the Boy Scout summer camp grounds at Pupukea on the North Shore of O'ahu.

Admiral Henry Persons, USN, ret., who was the chairman of the camp development committee, estimated that members of the Building Trades unions, including carpenters, laborers, plumbers, painters, and IBEW Local 1186, contributed $160,000 in free labor to help build the camp. With their help the scout council was able to build the camp's craft house, health lodge, toilets and showers, the rangers' cabin, rifle range and administration building.

In August, Admiral Persons and the Aloha Council presented a plaque to Jack Reynolds of the Building Trades and vice president of the federation to express the scouts' gratitude.

In May of the following year, labor's community service program achieved even greater recognition when the Aloha Fund, predecessor of the Aloha United Way, named Revocato Medina of Laborer's Local 368 as the first full-time labor liaison assigned to the fund staff. Responsible to the Aloha United Fund Labor Committee, chaired by Francis Kennedy, Medina was hired to link up needy union members and their families to United Fund agencies and to help the unions promote fundraising campaigns.

Con Con

The federation coordinated AFL-CIO union participation in the 1968 Constitutional Convention. Starting back in January, 20 union business agents attended a special eight-week session of classes at the University of Hawaii organized by the Labor Education Program.

They made a slate of endorsements and publicized them widely prior to the June elections and developed a set of lobbying objectives that union representatives carefully followed throughout the fall convention. Particularly high on the federation agenda were reapportionment and collective bargaining rights for the state's public workers. After 1960 when President John F. Kennedy issued an Executive Order granting federal workers the right to bargain, state and county workers were among the few sectors of the nation's workforce left without statutory rights to bargain wages and working conditions.

Many of the convention delegates were deeply committed to the rights of workers. A new breed of young activists like David Hagino articulated a philosophical program they first called "Palaka Power," after the common laborer's plantation work shirt, which featured legislative proposals designed to make Hawaii a model of progressive labor relations.

Among other things, then, the Convention provided a constitutional mandate to the coming legislature to enact enabling legislation granting state and county workers bargaining rights.

Staff Changes

Robert Knight, executive secretary-treasurer of the federation, resigned his position Nov. 16 to head a training program for the Hawaii Carpenters Union Trust Fund. Knight denied that the new position had political implications and indicated that his background had been in training.

Charles E. Kauhane was appointed by the executive committee of the federation to lobby at the legislature. A veteran politician who was unsuccessful in his attempt to win back his House seat, his appointment gave the committee ample time to conduct a search to replace Knight as executive secretary-treasurer.

Trouble in the Ranks

Despite the many accomplishments of the State Federation that year, 1968 proved to be a tough year for the fledgling union. Rutledge, president of Local 5 of the Hotel Workers union, was unhappy with the federation's support of Governor Burns over his favorite, Thomas Gill. As time went on Rutledge found his support on the executive board waning and finally decided to leave the federation. Also leaving the Federation this year were Local 625 of the Ironworkers, the Carpet Layers Local 1926, Clothing & Textile Workers Local 809, Dry wall Workers Local 1944, Glaziers Local 1889, Elevator Construction Workers Local 126 and Laborers Local 386. With the disaffiliation of the Hotel Workers Local 5 as of March 1, I. B. "Buddy" Peterson of the Musicians Association of Honolulu Local 677, and Mamoru Okuda, Building Trades representative and member of Carpenters Local 745, were appointed by the federation's executive board to replace Rutledge and Carpenter as vice presidents.

Another vice president replacement was Harold Bode, of IBEW 1260 who was appointed by the executive board to take over for Makanani, who had moved from Kauai. As a result of these disaffiliations, overall per capita collection reached its lowest level in the State Federation's history in 1968, dipping down to an average of just 17,751 members, a drop of nearly 13 percent or 2,600 members less than the year before. There were reports that Charles Russo, Port Council president, was advocating a return to the old Central Labor Council, and this matter was discussed with two visiting top AFL-CIO officials. Peter McGavin, secretary-treasurer of the Maritime Trades Department, and Frank Drozak, personal representative of Metal Trades Department. President Paul Hall met with the Port Council's executive board.

Russo said the principal activity of the State Federation during its four-year existence had been in the field of politics and the lack of communication with local unions caused it to become less effective. He said that the council was needed to "maintain the strength of the AFL-CIO unions in Hawaii" through assistance on a day-to-day basis.

Two AFL-CIO officials assured the Port Council that they would take immediate steps to have the national AFL-CIO issue a charter for a new Central Labor Council in Honolulu.

Kennedy commented that the federation now has divisions in each county, comparable to a central labor council, and it appears to be a duplication.

The Fifth State Legislature, 1969

The 1969 session of the State's legislature proved to be one on the most memorable for labor bills. Not only did Hawaii enact a collective bargaining law for its public workers pursuant to the mandate of the constitutional convention, but it became the sixth jurisdiction nationally to pass a "Temporary Disability Law" requiring employers in the state to provide a sick leave benefit plan to eligible workers.

 

Part IV: Walter H. Kupau, 1969-1984

Walter Kupau At the third biennial convention Francis J. Kennedy, a well-known Gill supporter, chose not to run for re-election, and the scene was set for a major contest between candidates representing the different political factions.

Convention speaker Mayor Shunichi Kimura from the Big Island pleaded with the delegates to put their differences aside and stand together in unity. But when nominations were called for, six candidates emerged: Akito "Blackie" Fujikawa of IBEW 1186, Walter Kupau of the Carpenters, John Montrone of the Painters, John Cabral of the American Federation of Government Employees, Joe Lii of the Inland Boatmen's Union and Emil Lee of the Marine Cooks and Stewards.

It soon became clear that Fujikawa and Kupau were the two leading contenders. Fujikawa, business manager of 1186, had since Jan. 31 been serving as acting executive secretary-treasurer to fill the vacancy left by Knight's resignation, but even when he withdrew his nomination for the presidency his influence as a leader of the Gill supporters was considerable.

Jack Reynolds, the Building Trades delegate, was looked to as a peacemaker and was offered the job of executive secretary-treasurer, but, fearing the split was too great, he declined. As the politicking heated up, Montrone, Cabral and Lii also withdrew their names from nomination, and the stage was set for a straightforward election between Walter Kupau and Emil Lee. In the end, Kupau, administrative assistant of the Carpenters Local 745, was elected with 12,068 votes to Lee's 10,254. Surprisingly, not all the voting was along Gill-Burns lines. Many Gill supporters, like Ivan Naiwi, threw their support to Kupau because he impressed them as a strong trade unionist who really did care more for the union movement than for any political alliances. With his election a new era in the history of the State AFL-CIO was begun.

Elected vice presidents for the Oahu Division were: Yukio Arashiro, Ironworkers Local 803; John Cabral, AFGE Local 882; Jack Copess, Boilermakers Local 204; James Crane, HFT Local 1127; Dorian Gustaveson, Roofers Local 221; John Haleamau, Marine Firemen; Arthur Kam, Transport Workers Local 505; I. B. Peterson, Musicians Local 677; Elmo Samson, Laborers Local 368; and Thomas Sing, Lithographers Local 201.

Neighbor Island vice presidents elected were: Ben Matsubara, IBEW Local 1260 Hawaii Division; John Man, IBEW 1260 Maui Division; and Thomas Tokioka, IBEW Local 1260 Kauai Division.

On a more somber note, the convention voted to honor the late Alex S. Reile, AFL-CIO Hawaii Pacific area representative since 1953, who planned to retire in December. He had been in ill health and passed away on Oct. 8 from an apparent heart attack.

Reile had represented the AFL-CIO in Hawaii longer than most people could remember. Before serving as the Pacific area representative for the national, he had spent many years as secretary-treasurer of the Central Labor Council. He served 10 years on the Hawaii Employment Relations Board and gave his time freely to countless other boards and civic commissions. Kupau led the tribute at the convention and expressed the federation's sympathies to his widow and other survivors.

With the convention over, Kupau, 33, was one of the youngest presidents to ever head up such a state body, and now he turned to the primary goals of his administration: organizing the unorganized workers in the state and increasing the number of affiliates.

His first order of business was to fill the position of executive secretary-treasurer. Wasting no time, on Oct. 2, he announced the appointment of William Abbott, a University of Hawaii labor specialist who had once been the education director of the United Rubber Workers. As Abbott explained at a press conference announcing his appointment, he planned to be active in organizing, starting with the Hawaii Federation of College Teachers at the University of Hawaii.

Nor were traditional union goals the only ones taken up under the Kupau administration. A major resolution was passed at the convention calling for reform of the state's abortion laws to permit rich and poor women alike access to legal and safe abortions. Other resolutions called for a temporary rent freeze to ease the worsening housing crisis, and a code of ethics in landlord-tenant laws.

Kupau also looked to the national AFL-CIO for its help. In a letter to George Meany dated March 3, 1970, Kupau wrote, "The death of Reile last October was a great loss to us. Over five months have elapsed and we have heard nothing about a replacement."

On March 23, 1970, William Hightower, a veteran trade unionist and staff representative and organizer for the national AFL-CIO, was appointed AFL-CIO Hawaii-Pacific representative replacing A. S. Reile. As Meany remarked to Kupau, "I am certain that the anticipated cooperation between AFL-CIO Representative Hightower and you and your fellow officers will result in the development of organizational programs that will benefit all AFL-CIO unions, the State of Hawaii, and the nation."

The Hawaii Public Employment Relations Act

Pursuant to the mandate of the Constitutional Convention, the 1970 legislature took up the task of writing Hawaii's collective bargaining law for public workers. The State Federation, the ILWU, UPW and the independent Hawaii Government Employees Association, led by David Trask were the main contributors to the heated discussions accompanying the birth of this landmark legislation.

The two biggest issues at stake involved the question of how much should be open to negotiations and whether or not public workers should have the right to strike. Trask preferred to leave salaries and job classifications in the hands of the legislature where he believed he had greater control than at the bargaining table. The federation wanted the law to work more like the Wagner Act with as much negotiable as possible.

The negotiability compromises that were reached in the infamous section 9 of the act would come back to haunt union leadership years later, but, in any event, the law which became Chapter 89 of the state's statutes granted most public workers the right to strike and would change public employee labor relations in Hawaii forever by securing bargaining rights for Hawaii's public workers, unknown in most of the other states.

HGEA and UPW Join the Federation

An immediate outcome of the new bargaining law was a rash of union representation elections as rival unions vied for representation of the 13 statutory bargaining units. For years the HGEA and the United Public Workers (UPW) had competed to enroll civil service workers in their respective unions. Without the legal status to bargain, the two unions offered a variety of membership assistance programs and lobbying efforts that had secured them a certain degree of acceptance and unofficial political power from supervisors and government leaders.

Now a set of elections would settle jurisdiction definitively, if not permanently. By the end of the year, HGEA had established certification for seven of the 13 units, mostly white collar professional and technical workers, while UPW had taken the blue collar non-supervisory and correctional workers. With this new-found stability, both unions were at last ready to put an end to raiding and quarreling with each other and get down to the serious business of negotiating and administering a collective bargaining agreement.

In this spirit of cooperation, a truce was called and HGEA and UPW sought affiliation, first with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), an AFL-CIO national affiliate, and by 1971-at Kupau's urging- with the Hawaii State Federation of Labor.

The addition of these two unions nearly doubled the size of the federation and brought in a new slate of vice presidents that was bound to strengthen the political voice of the federation.

Under Kupau's leadership the federation also lent its support to the AFL-CIO local of the American Federation of Teachers in its bid with HSTA, the NEA local, for representation of the state school teachers' bargaining unit. His sister, Jessica Kirk, the leader of the Hawaii Federation of Teachers, came agonizingly close to winning that election. But after the results of a second, run-off election were tallied, the HSTA narrowly took the unit.

GE Picketed

In the past, the federation had often helped coordinate sympathy pickets to join an affiliate on strike. In the winter of 1969, for the first time, the federation led a unique picket expressing national solidarity even though no local affiliate was actually on strike.

The General Electric Company had instituted a regressive policy of making "take-it-or-leave-it" offers to its workers throughout the country. Known as "Boulwarism" after former company vice president Lemuel Boulware, in 1969 and 1970 this tactic was being opposed by 150,000 workers in 13 national unions.

In Hawaii the federation sponsored a local boycott that began in December. On the Dec. 15, 30 informational pickets from the State Federation led by William Abbott set up a line in front of Ramsay G.E. Appliance to join their union brothers and sisters on the mainland in protesting Boulwarism and bad faith bargaining.

Burns and Ariyoshi Backed by COPE

When at last the COPE convention met to take up the difficult question of its gubernatorial endorsement, the vote favored the Burns-Ariyoshi ticket in the primary over Gill. While Kupau had pledged at his election that "no politician will split our union," the Burns endorsement fallout created many problems.

For instance, Fumi Ige, the COPE coordinator, was a Gill campaign worker and her husband was Gill's campaign manager. With the COPE endorsement going to Burns she left her position to work full-time for Gill. Not only staff dropped out over the endorsement. The Machinists, Operating Engineers, Electrical Workers, Painters, Plumbers, and American Federation of Government Employees all dropped out of the federation because of their desire to support Gill over Burns. Easter Call for Peace

For most of the period of the Vietnam War the AFL-CIO had supported presidential policy and the war effort. In the '60s the State Federation had even organized a support march to rally around President Johnson when he visited here.But by 1971 things had changed. News of the "My Lai" atrocities and the realization that the United States no longer enjoyed a moral superiority over its enemy prompted many Americans to change their minds. On April 7, 1971, Kupau of the federation, David Thompson of the ILWU, Epstein of the UPW and Trask of the HGEA held a press conference with then-U.S. Rep. Sparky Matsunaga at which the four labor leaders jointly called for an end to the carnage and peace negotiations to begin as soon as possible. Matsunaga promised to take a copy of the statement back to President Nixon and read it into the Congressional Record.

The 1971 Convention

In September 1971 the federation held its fourth biennial convention at the Ala Moana Hotel. More than 150 delegates representing 50,479 members attended and voted to re-elect Kupau by acclamation and reduce the number of vice presidents from 13 to eight. Keladine White, the COPE coordinator hired to replace Ige, reported that labor had failed to bring out the vote in the last elections. While Governor Burns had been reelected, in another crucial race Joseph Kuroda defeated union-backed Mitsuo Uechi, who was a member and officer of the Hawaii Federation of Teachers.

HGEA's Trask figured prominently at this convention and convinced the delegates to pass a resolution supporting the proposed H-3 freeway from Kaneohe to Pearl Harbor. And, of the eight vice-presidents three were from the new public sector affiliates. HGEA's Herbert Perreira and Clarence "Gadget" Takashima, represented Hawaii and Kauai, and UPW's Walter Correa represented Maui.

Federation Staff Changes

In October Kupau hired Judith Sobin, a former staff member and program analyst for the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO to work as a State Federation research associate. Her research work did much to improve the lobbying of the president and executive secretary-treasurer by establishing a greater credibility with legislators.

One of the major problems plaguing the federation was the difficulty finding and retaining a good executive secretary-treasurer. During the Kupau years no fewer than five men held the job which seemed to be by its nature the kind of job that could not attract a candidate dynamic enough to do the job well, yet at the same time content enough not to seek greater authority.

William Abbott left after only a year to head up the newly certified Federation of College Teachers that negotiated the first University of Hawaii faculty contract. He was followed in September 1970 by B.D. "Bud" Kaye, formerly a Star-Bulletin copy editor, who held the position until December 1973, when he had to leave for personal reasons. A. Van Horn Diamond took over from 1974 and held the position for more than five years, longer than anyone. On May 31, 1978, he took a leave to run for lieutenant governor of the state and finally resigned in September 1979 after failing another bid to unseat Kupau as the federation's president. From April through December 1980, Star-Bulletin reporter Phil Mayer held the post briefly. Then in September 1981 after his loss of UPW leadership to Gary Rodrigues, Epstein was appointed executive secretary-treasurer, but, under protest from UPW, was released in June 1982.

The 1973 Convention on Dec. 1 at the Ilikai was one of the less eventful meetings of the federation. Kupau was re-elected to an unprecedented third term and new constitutional amendments that reallocated delegate votes were enacted.

Major federation effort through 1974 was poured into support for a Nixon impeachment drive as a result of his infamous wage-freezes and pay-board decisions. The Watergate scandal was just the last straw as far as the AFL-CIO was concerned.

Ethel Miyachi, formerly a secretary with HGEA, started work at the State AFL-CIO office May 8, 1974. After a long succession of secretaries and receptionists, Miyachi brought an era of stability to the office management of the federation and set a high standard of competence. In the long periods after Phil Mayer left as executive secretary-treasurer, she took over the writing and editing of the Hawaii AFL-CIO Nupepa.

Also in 1974, Megumi "Lefty" Muramoto, another HGEA staffer, came on board as the COPE director as of the convention in September, when the delegates voted to endorse the team of George Ariyoshi and Nelson Doi for the gubernatorial race.

Despite the recent increases in over-all federation membership, in 1974 it was financially strapped, so the executive board established a special 13-month per capita year to put the federation back on its feet and pay off $10,000 to $12,000 worth of debts.

Rice & Roses

Another major accomplishment in 1974 was the long awaited debut of Rice & Roses, a weekly half-hour labor program on Hawaii's public television channel. Working together with the ILWU, the State federation lobbied extensively for the legislative grant that funded the series, which was then viciously attacked by the business community. The first three episodes of the second season, which began April 30, 1975, featured Max Roffman's insightful "Hawaiian Labor History." It was hosted by the new State Federation executive secretary A. Van Horn Diamond and narrated by island broadcaster and AFTRA member Bob Miller.

Diamond had been with the HGEA since 1970 as the education and training officer. He was also well known as an island entertainer and was a member of both the Musicians Union Local 677 and the American Guild of Variety Artists.

Federation Unity

In 1975 Kupau again confronted the former leadership of Carpenters Union Local 745, and Yanagi, his former boss and rival for the post, pulled the local out of the federation in protest. Not until 1980, when Kupau finally won control of the local, did it reaffiliate.

The convention that year, on Sept. 12-14 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, was one marked by a high degree of unity and unanimity. All resolutions and elections were passed unanimously. Even more startling was the speech presented by Robert McElrath of the ILWU. After decades of intense rivalry, the past few years had begun to see more and more opportunities for cooperation between the AFL-CIO unions and Hawaii's independent sugar and pineapple workers' representative. Together they had been able to fund Rice & Roses and see many other pro-labor laws enacted.

Right-to-Work Drive

Just after convention in 1975, Hawaii's labor movement experienced an unusual and ominous attack from the national Right-to-Work Committee headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia. This well-known union-busting organization was attempting to incite legislative drives in each state to pass local laws making union-security clauses in collective bargaining agreements illegal.

In October Hawaii residents were the target of a mail campaign designed to stir up anti-union animus in the public, that called Hawaii's labor leadership a "gang of strong-arm toughs." Fortunately, most people in the state knew better. Hawaii workers are among the nation's most highly unionized, so, with the help of the State Federation's expose, the Right-to-Work Drive of 1975 came to nothing.

Federation Accomplishments

On April 28-29, 1976, the State Federation and the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) sponsored a "Union OSHA Conference." Instructors from the Department of Labor helped to provide intensive instruction to union leaders on the state's safety and health program, and workers' legal rights and benefits.

Over the next few years the stability in the federation started to pay off in many ways. Diamond, writing in the February 1978 issue of the AFL-CIO News, cited the following accomplishments:

" Your State Federation has opened up vital lines of communication and cooperation with our counterpart organizations in most of the Western states...
" Your State Federation... has been able to build and reestablish a strong and popular social profile and political stature. We have fought off anti-union, anti-labor sentiments.
" Our COPE political program is much improved. We have developed effectiveness through our endorsements, our campaign efforts, and our legislative lobbying program.
" Internally, the State Federation staff is now more stable and has an improved work situation. We are a unionized operation and we have enjoyed fantastic productivity and performances from our staff people.
" We have good relationships with our Congressional delegates as well as representatives of local, state and federal governments.
" We have opened communications with the independent unions in Hawaii, especially the ILWU and even Unity House affiliates.
" Your State AFL-CIO together with many labor organizations has founded a Center for Labor Education and Research at the UH.
" Internationally, we have met and have started building bridges with labor movement around the Pacific Basin.
" We are proudest of our growth and consolidation. In 1974 we had 30 affiliates. In 1978 we have no less than 45 affiliates.
While the Honolulu dailies continued to focus on the inter-union disputes and to highly publicize any union leaving the federation, the regular addition of affiliates experienced over the years was ordinarily ignored, leaving the impression that the labor movement was disorganized and riddled with petty jealousies. But, as Kupau and Diamond continually tried to point out to the public, the truth of this period was a growing spirit of cooperation and union solidarity in lobbying agendas, if not specific endorsements.

The eighth biennial convention was held on September 7-9, 1979, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village's Coral Ballroom. There were 100 delegates representing 19 affiliated unions and five councils.

Incumbent president Kupau was unanimously reelected. Diamond, former executive secretary-treasurer was nominated but withdrew his candidacy. He was, however, elected as a federation vice president from the Musicians Union Local 677.

Strike Support

During the Kupau years, of course, there were several famous strikes. The Ironworkers Local 803 strike of 1975, the United Public Workers unit 1 strike of refuse collectors in 1979, and the ill-fated Professional Air Traffic Controllers' strike of 1980 are three of the best publicized.

But the State Federation, under Kupau's leadership, made it a point of honor to support striking workers whether they were affiliates or not and no matter how small the bargaining unit. Paging through past issues of the Hawaii AFL-CIO News reveals pictures and support drives for union brothers and sisters not so well remembered, but just as deserving of labor's solidarity as any unionist who puts everything on the line to make the ultimate sacrifice for a better future.

A short list of just some of the strikes the federation supported reveal the variety and scope of Hawaii's wide-ranging labor movement: 1974, the SEIU Local 556 strike at the Pearl Harbor Credit Union; the same year the Machinists, Lodge 1245's strike at Hawaiian Air Tour Services; The Pressmen's 1975 strike against Mail-Well Envelope Co.; the Meat Cutters Strike at Honolulu Freezer in November 1975; Graphic Arts International Union's 1978 Strike against Hawaiian Printing; OPEIU, Local 460's office worker strike against Planned Parenthood in 1978.

Clearly the most distinguishing characteristic of the Kupau era was the total support he demanded of fellow unionists for those on strike.

OSHA Grant

Also in 1979 the State Federation launched another innovative program when it received a U.S. Department of Labor grant to develop an educational program responsive to the safety and health needs of Hawaii's workers and train labor representatives in OSHA regulations so they would not need to rely exclusively on high-paid consultants. Working through Hasegawa, the new director of the University of Hawaii's Center for Labor Education and Research (CLEAR), this project was a great success and the workshops that were held that summer were well attended and highly appreciated.

Federation Name Change

In May of 1980 at a special COPE Convention the delegates decided to change the name of the organization to the Hawaii State AFL-CIO and drop the words "federation of labor" in order to be consistent with the other state bodies. A request to be rechartered under the new name was submitted to the national AFL-CIO, and it became official on July 17 when the revised charter was issued.

Then, in 1983 the office was moved out of the old Halekauwila Street building into the Hawaii State AFL-CIO's current location at 320 Ward Avenue.

Kupau Attacked

Sadly, the many achievements of the Kupau administration were unduly blighted by a protracted legal battle he was forced to wage with the FBI over his staffs attempts to organize a non-union contractor on Maui. Unable to sustain a complaint against Kupau under the procedures of the National Labor Relations Act, federal investigators were able to indict Kupau on a perjury charge based on his insistence that the Carpenters' picket of that contractor was essentially informational rather than recognitional in character.

Convicted by an all-haole jury despite his protests that his use of pidgin English was a crucial part of his defense, Kupau was thereafter urged by the national AFL-CIO to resign. Denied appeal, he was sentenced to a short term in federal prison.

The 10th biennial convention of the State AFL-CIO was held on Saturday, Sept. 10, 1983 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village's Tapa Towers. There were 55 delegates representing 25 affiliated unions, 16 guests and 3 councils.

Speakers for the convention were Jane Adams, Area Six COPE director; the Honorable Simeon Acoba, First Circuit Court; Alan Kistler, director of AFL-CIO Department of Organization and Field Services; and the Honorable Richard Wong, State Senate President.

At the time of the convention, Kupau had been indicted by the federal grand jury and charged with criminal wrongdoing in connection with his union organizing activities as business manger of the Carpenters' union. Alan Kistler, director of the AFL-CIO Department of Organization and Field Services arrived in Hawaii to hand deliver a letter from President Lane Kirkland to Kupau. This letter was distributed to delegates at the convention. The letter stated in part

"....it is my duty as AFL-CIO President to advise you that on and after the date of hand delivery of this letter, you may not serve as President of the Hawaii State AFL-CIO unless and until the criminal charges against you are dismissed or you are otherwise exonerated."
The letter also stated that the AFL-CIO policy regarding individuals who are under indictment does not bar Kupau from running for office as long as the delegates are fully advised before the election that unless and until the criminal charges are dismissed, or he is otherwise exonerated, he may not serve as a federation officer.

Resenting this intrusion, the delegates took an entirely different course of action. Vice president Benjamin Toyama nominated Kupau and there being no other nominations, read a resolution in support of him which was unanimously adopted.

Kupau was elected by the delegation and was given a round of applause. He expressed his appreciation for the confidence received from the delegates and remarked that he will step down only at the request of the delegates in attendance.

Also of importance was the constitutional amendment of Article III - Membership-Representation-Voting. This amendment would allow greater participation by the smaller locals at the convention by increasing the number of delegates. Local unions with 500 or less members would be allowed two delegates.

On May 31, 1983, AFL-CIO President Kirkland decided to close the national's area office in Honolulu. William Hightower had retired the previous November and, faced with a national budget crunch, Kirkland decided not to replace him.

Facing sentencing in 1984 after his perjury conviction, Kupau in January appointed Samson Mamizuka of the Carpenters' union as Acting-President in his absence until September 1985 when the llth Biennial Convention was due to meet and elect a new president.

 

PART V: Gary W. Rodrigues, 1985 - Present

Gary Rodrigues The eleventh biennial convention held on October 11, 1985 ushered a new era for the Hawaii State AFL-CIO. Its president elect was the first head of a union which represented employees in the private, as well as the public sector. Gary W. Rodrigues seemed especially suited for new challenges and opportunities presented to the labor movement in the later half of the 1980's and the beginning of the 1990's.

A native of Kapaa, Kauai, Rodrigues began his union career as a business agent for the UPW in 1965. He served for 16 years as Division Director on the island when the UPW consolidated its base in both government and private institutions. He worked as a legislative aid to a powerful Kauai senator at the time the public sector collective bargaining law was passed in 1970. He negotiated the first statewide agreements for blue collar and institutional workers in 1972. In 1981 he was elected State Director of the UPW, one of two AFSCME affiliates in the State.

During his tenure as President, the AFL-CIO forged a new unity between private and public sector workers. The State AFL-CIO spearheaded an impressive legislative program. It worked closely with the new state administration to promote a gradual expansion in all sectors of the economy. Labor's role in community services took a giant step forward. Its Committee on Political Education reaped major election victories. Inter-union relations in Hawaii improved.

New Affiliations and Unprecedented Growth

In part due to structural changes in the American economy and due to regressive policies of the Reagan administration, organized labor experienced a significant decline in its nationwide membership in the 1980's. Here in Hawaii and nationally, labor unions looked to the AFL-CIO to stem the tide of reaction.

In 1985 and 1986 the Screen Actor's Guild, two councils of the Flight Attendants Association, AFSCME's East-West Center Local 928, the Masters Mates and Pilots Union, the International Photographers' Guild, and Communication Workers of America Local 9415 affiliated with the State AFL-CIO. In 1987 Local 5 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union affiliated for two years.

In 1988 Hawaii's largest independent union in the private sector also joined the State AFL-CIO. Following its affiliation with the national AFL-CIO in August 1988, the ILWU voted to associate with the State AFL-CIO. With more than 28,000 members, the ILWU Local 142 was one of the fastest growing labor organizations in Hawaii, representing workers in the longshore, sugar, pineapple, general trades and tourism industries. Following its affiliation with the AFL-CIO, the ILWU surpassed Local 5 as Hawaii's largest union in tourism. It also won the first award for organizing priority under the AFL-CIO's new Article XXI procedures at a hotel in Maui.

In 1989 the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen Local 1, Operative Plasters & Cement Masons Local 630, and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 480 joined the State AFL-CIO. By September of that year, when its biennial convention convened, a record 172 delegates representing 49 affiliates were in attendance. Thirty-three vice presidents were elected (another record), and Rodrigues was re-elected by acclamation.

From 1985 to 1990 the membership of the State AFL-CIO increased from approximately 45,000 to 74,000. This was the highest point of union membership in its history.

An Impressive Legislative Program

  1. The Workers' Compensation "Crisis" and Reform

    In the early 1980's insurance and business groups were intent on dismantling Hawaii's liberal workers' compensation laws. In 1981 and 1983 the insurance carriers increased workers' compensation rates by 54%, and business leaders clamored about a bad business climate in Hawaii. They advocated major reforms in Hawaii's presumption which favored the injured worker, claiming that fraud and abuse were common occurrences. The debate over workers' compensation dominated the legislative agenda from 1984 to 1986.

    The Hawaii State AFL-CIO challenged the basic premise of insurance and business interests (i.e. that major reforms in the presumption and statutory benefits were needed to cut insurance rates). While supporting measures to establish new guidelines for medical benefits, the State AFL-CIO maintained that the "crisis" in workers' compensation was falsely created by the insurance industry to exact excessive profits from the program. It supported the establishment of a state fund and called for an investigation of rating making through a "business advocate." The essential aspects of labor's reform program were adopted in 1985 by the legislature.

    With the presumption intact and a state fund on the books, an investigation into insurance rates before the Insurance Commissioner disclosed that during the first half of the 1980's insurance carriers reaped 25% rates of return on their investments. The UPW intervened to challenge another proposed increase of 17.9% and hired an actuary to examine the record. The disclosure of excess profits was the result. In October 1986 Commissioner Mario Ramil rolled back rates by 12.4%. In July 1987 a new Insurance Commissioner under the Waihee administration reduced rates by another 18.9%.

    During the 1986 and 1987 legislative sessions the tide had turned against the insurance interests. The State AFL-CIO favored funding for a non-profit state fund to compete with insurance carrier's in the $250 million a year workers' compensation program. Business and insurance lobbyists suddenly favored the existing "system." For 40,000 workers who suffer injuries in Hawaii each year, the struggle to preserve the workers' compensation program had been won, at least temporarily.

    In ensuing years, a renewed effort to improve statutory benefits was made. Claimants who were permanently totally disabled and receiving less than the state's average weekly wages would receive supplemental adjustments in their weekly compensation checks effective 1992. This will be the first such adjustment since 1980. Another measure increased the payment of death benefits to the parents of deceased workers with no other dependents.

  2. Increasing the Minimum Wage

    Since 1981, Hawaii's minimum wage law had not been amended. Meanwhile, from 1981 to 1987 the state's average weekly wages increased by 30%. At $3.35 an hour a full-time worker would earn $6,968 per year, well below the $12,650 annual poverty income criteria for a family of four. To close the gap between unrepresented and unionized workers, the state AFL-CIO launched a campaign to increase the minimum wage starting in 1987. The legislature agreed to increase the minimum wage by 15% effective January 1, 1988 (i.e., to $3.85 per hour). House and Senate conferees deadlocked on the issue in 1988 and 1989. The State AFL-CIO launched a media campaign to generate broader community support for additional increases to the minimum wage. Finally during the 1991 legislative session the minimum wage was increased to $4.75 per hour beginning April 1, 1992, and $5.25 per hour beginning January 1, 1993.

  3. Corporate Takeovers and Plant Closures

    During the mid-1980's the pace of economic development in Hawaii increased substantially. Spurred by investments from East and West new developments, especially in the resort areas, provided new employment opportunities. However, with the increased rate of economic change, Hawaii also began to experience corporate takeovers and other forms of complex business transactions which increased the risk of job displacements and shutdowns. For example, in January 1987 approximately 125 workers at the Airport Holiday Inn were laid off following a sale and takeover by an adjacent hotel owner, without any prior notice.

    During the 1987 legislature, the State AFL-CIO supported a Dislocated Worker bill introduced by House Labor Committee Chairperson Dwight Takamine which required a 45 day written notice, supplemental unemployment insurance benefits for 4 weeks, and civil penalties for offending employers. When signed into law, the measure placed Hawaii among the few states with plant closing laws (Maine and Massachusetts were forerunners). It was not until 1988 that Congress passed WARN (the federal plant closure law).

  4. Protection for the Wrongfully Discharged

    During the 1987 session, the President of the State AFL-CIO also submitted testimony in support of a whistleblower protection act which prohibited retaliatory discharges and discrimination against workers who reported suspected violations of public law. The enactment provided workers in the public and private sectors injunctive relief, civil penalties, and other remedies against employers who sought to silence them for speaking out against unlawful practices on the job. Hawaii's Whistleblower Protection Act (HRS 378) was supplemental to a new judicial relief favoring employees who were wrongfully terminated "against public policy."

  5. Martin Luther King Day and Civil Rights Reform

    In memory of the slain civil rights leader, the Hawaii legislature in 1989 designated the third monday of January, Martin Luther King Day. The State AFL-CIO supported the measure. In the same year, the legislature established a Civil Rights Commission composed of five members and consolidated authority over all fair employment practice matters to it (HRS 368). The enactment was strongly opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups.

  6. The Unemployment Trust Fund and UI Reforms

    Soon after being elected Governor, John Waihee in 1987 proposed a reduction in the unemployment insurance trust fund from its near $300 million level by providing tax relief to island employers. His program was designed in part to help stimulate the local economy by providing an average of $40 million of relief each year to Hawaii businesses and to improve the "business climate." Business interests supported the Waihee plan for permanent reductions in the UI tax base, but opposed either a training fund or benefit increases for workers. The AFL-CIO favored a reform program for unemployment insurance which upgraded the standards of "fund adequacy," created a training fund, and provided improvements in worker benefits.

    In 1987 the legislature granted interim relief of $40 million and proceeded with caution on other aspects of the proposed reform. This prompted the State AFL-CIO to commission a comparative legal review of UI statutes in all states, and an economic study to determinate whether the UI fund was in fact "excessive." In March 1990 Professors Richard Pollock and Jack Suyderhoud issued their report advising caution as to tax cuts and forewarning that even a moderate recession could rapidly deplete the fund balance in light of current wage patterns.

    In 1991 the legislature redefined fund adequacy (to require fund levels to pay for benefits over the period of a moderately severe recession) and instituted new tax rates which evenly spread reductions among employers with similar unemployment insurance experiences. The measure established an employment and training fund with an assessment of .05% to help workers overcome employment barriers and to improve employment prospects. It also provided for significant benefit adjustments to restore the purchasing power of unemployed persons that eroded through the taxation of benefits. The maximum weekly benefit rates were increased from 66%% to 70% and the formula for calculating weekly benefit amounts was liberalized. These reforms have been especially beneficial to construction workers and employers.

  7. Family Leave

    1991 was also the year Hawaii became one of the first states in the nation to adopt a family leave bill, which affords up to four weeks of unpaid leave for a birth or adoption of a child or a serious family illness. The law becomes effective in 1994 for public employees and applies to private sector employees in work forces with 100 or more persons.

Balanced Economic Growth

Economic conditions in Hawaii appeared to have taken a turn for the better by the time John Waihee was elected Governor in 1986. The rate of unemployment was at an all time low and the state coffers were in good shape. The construction unions entered five year contracts and resort construction projects were popping up on all islands.

The State AFL-CIO fully supported the construction of H-3 as a means of assuring jobs for those in the construction industry and to stabilize Hawaii's rate of economic development. After years of court battles over the adequacy of environmental impact statements, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals finally gave the greenlight to the freeway project.

The Waihee administration and state labor leaders worked cooperatively to plan and work toward balanced economic growth on a statewide basis. The governor appointed many labor leaders to various boards, commissions, and work groups. Through a coordinated statewide program, the State AFL-CIO helped stave off building moratoriums in various counties, as well as proposals for planning initiatives and referenda at the legislature. Work is currently in progress for a mass transit system on Oahu, and geothermal development proceeds.

Renewed Commitment to Community Services

For more than 40 years the national AFL-CIO has enjoyed a working relationship with United Way of America to promote community service work among its members. The cooperative venture evolved out of a commitment to voluntarism in a democratic society.

A basic principle of the AFL-CIO Community Services Program is that the union member is first and foremost, a citizen of the community who cooperates with other citizens in making the community a good place in which to live, to work, to raise children, and to retire. The union member is concerned about the availability of adequate health, welfare, and human services for the entire community.

From its inception, the Hawaii State Federation in 1966 has had a labor liaison to help coordinate health and human services programs with the various United way agencies in the state. Since 1985, however, Labor's participation in all aspects of community services has expanded substantially, and the role of the State AFL-CIO became more clearly defined.

Affiliated locals of the State AFL-CIO were kept abreast of community service programs and concerns through the monthly Hawaii AFL-CIO Nupepa. In March 1987 the first statewide community service conference geared primarily to union business agents and stewards was convened. Among the highlights of the conference was the topic of drug abusive and treatment. Participants learned of the vast array of health and human services provided by the many agencies funded by the Aloha United Way. It is estimated that one out of every two beneficiaries of the services provided are union members.

In 1990 the State AFL-CIO amended its by-laws and constitution to formalize its relationship with the Aloha United Way and the United Way programs on each of the islands. Through a community services committee the State AFL-CIO coordinates Hawaii's labor involvement in state and county programs. Clyde Hayashi, Boilermaker Local 204 President and former President of the Federal Metal Trades Council, has continued as the labor liaison (since 1987) with the Aloha United Way. Another labor liaison for the island of Maui was recently added.

AFL-CIO officials currently serve on nine of the allocation panels which help determine which agencies should be funded annually.

The AFL-CIO has 12 members on the 75 member board of directors of the Aloha United Way and 5 members on the 20 member executive committee.

In 1990 Aloha United Way exceeded all previous records when it raised $14 million. The State AFL-CIO is clearly a significant participant in the fund raising drives. Among the recipients of outstanding volunteer awards have been Joanne Kealoha of the ILWU in 1989, Gary Rodrigues of the UPW in 1990, and Norman Ahakuelo of the IBEW in 1991.

COPE Success in Elections

Hoping to avoid the fallout from the Burns-Gill split of 1970, the State AFL-CIO adopted a constitutional change in 1985 which prohibits AFL-CIO members to work for groups or organizations which are inimical to the policies of the State AFL-CIO. The provision bars one from holding AFL-CIO office in the event of a breach of discipline from AFL-CIO endorsements. This provision continues to be applied with a recognition that the House of Labor represents a diverse community of interests which may not see eye to eye on all political matters. COPE endorsements over the years continue to help workers determine who will best represent their interests at all levels of government.

In 1986 eighty-eight percent of AFL-CIO endorsed candidates were elected to office. In 1988 eighty percent of candidates receiving endorsements won. In 1990 over 92% of COPE endorsed candidates emerged victorious. The election results in the Senatorial race between Daniel Akaka and Patricia Saiki was especially noteworthy.

In 1991 President Gary Rodrigues was one of nine members of the Reapportionment Commission which redistricted all state legislative and congressional districts. The review process occurs once every ten years.

 

EPILOGUE: Pa'a Hui Unions-

The history of Hawaii's labor movement is rich and colorful. As in no other state in the country, Hawaii's labor unions have developed with an independence and style profoundly influenced by the islands' social history. For more than 100 years between 1840 and 1955, Hawaii was virtually the private preserve of a handful of corporate families. The five greatest companies, Castle and Cooke, C. Brewer, Hackfeld, Alexander & Baldwin, and Theo. Davies, commonly called the "Big 5," came to own or control nearly every business or financial interest in the islands.

American, white and Republican, this oligarchy held absolute power politically as well as economically and made Hawaii one of the last places in which labor was able to establish any kind of significant power of its own.

Race discrimination was the single greatest stumbling block to the rise of Hawaii's labor unions. Not only were the native Hawaiian workers kept out of positions of authority, but the haole business leaders of the islands, through careful immigration policies, imported successive waves of Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, and Filipino laborers who were each, in their turn, made to occupy a racially stratified wage scale.

Before labor could combine effectively to take on the Big 5, workers first had to overcome their mutual distrust and jealousies. The early history of Hawaiian plantation labor unions was plagued by racial unionism. First a string of Japanese, then Filipino, strikes were ruthlessly crushed. Not until the longshore workers in Hilo and Kauai were able to organize truly interracial unions in the 1930s were Hawaii's workers at last able to unite meaningfully and mount a serious challenge to Hawaii's business oligarchy.

As the foregoing chapters reveal, the history of the AFL-CIO unions in Hawaii is the story of continuous growth, change and adaptation. The very early attempts to organize AFL unions in Hawaii were likewise impeded by racism. Honolulu's exclusive white mechanics' association organized at the turn of the century to oppose Chinese immigration was, fortunately, an anomaly that did not prevent the real organization in the late '20s and early '30s of craft workers that began to include, first, Hawaiian and Portuguese, then part-Hawaiian and Chinese, followed by Japanese skilled trades unionists. Their numbers may have been small, but Hawaii's trade unions led the way in racial integration, in some instances, against the direct orders of their internationals.

A distinguishing characteristic of Hawaii's AFL-CIO locals has always been their independence. Two thousand miles across the Pacific Ocean, even today, is a long way away from all the international headquarters. Hawaii's labor leadership has never been afraid to make its own rules in view of that distance which has always been a gulf even more significant culturally than geographically.

Despite the unrelenting media focus on inter-union rivalry and the rise and fall of political factions within the movement, as the membership chart on page 42 illustrates, the past 25 years of confederation have witnessed prolonged and steady growth. Hawaii's labor movement in 1966 was very different in character from what it has become today. In the late '60s and early '70s there were many more labor union members out of the AFL-CIO than within. Five of Hawaii's largest unions, the ILWU, the Teamsters, the United Public Workers, the HGEA and the Hawaii State Teachers Association were all independents. In 1991, all but the teachers' union are in the AFL-CIO, and all but the teachers' and the Teamsters are in the State AFL-CIO.

In 1966 there were just under 20,000 AFL-CIO union members represented by 55 affiliates paying per capita dues to the State Federation, but in 1991 there are more than 74,000 AFL-CIO union members being represented by just 43 affiliated locals (councils not included). This trend to larger membership in fewer unions is partially the result of a national union trend toward union mergers. But the membership decline experienced by most mainland unions through the 1980s has not generally been experienced in Hawaii.

For one reason, Hawaii's economy was not as dependent on industrial production as many of the other highly unionized states. Hawaii's unions have, on the other hand, tended to be highly adaptive to changes in the island economy. In the '50s and early '60s agriculture was the leading industry and base of the islands' economy. With the arrival of the first jumbo jets, the economy began changing and tourism and tourist-related development began to overtake traditional sugar and pineapple production as the key industries. Instead of resisting or trying to ignore these inevitable changes, Hawaii's unions immediately began organizing the growth sectors.

As a result, the proportion of the Hawaiian workforce organized into labor unions, now estimated at 28 percent, far exceeds the national norm which has crept down to nearly 15 percent.

In spite of their differences and occasional rivalries, Hawaii's labor unions continue to join together in mutual support, particularly in crises that transcend politics and cut straight to the heart of the most enduring union principles.

*The term Pa 'a Hui Unions is one first heard from a Hawaiian unionist in Hilo and veteran of the early days of the labor movement there. He used the term to describe the solidarity among the Hilo unions back in the late 1930s. The Hawaiian word Pa 'a means solid or tight-knit and the word Hui refers to an association, group or union.

[chart of Hawaii State AFL-CIO membership]

[photo of CLC building, Hawaii State Fed. of Labor and Hawaii State AFL-CIO office in 1991]