UPW union supports Mayor Bryan Baptiste

LIHU‘E — Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste got a boost in his reelection bid Friday with the endorsement of leaders of the United Public Workers union.

The UPW, among the largest unions in the state, represents 13,000 workers, including about 1,000 members on Kaua‘i.

During a meeting with reporters at Baptiste’s new campaign headquarters on Kuhio Highway in Lihu‘e, UPW State Director Dayton M. Nakanelua said UPW leaders and UPW members on Kaua‘i threw their support behind Baptiste because he has supported the union’s collective-bargaining concerns in the past, “especially cost items and salary increases.”

The current collective-bargaining contract runs through June 30, 2007.

“He also has supported increases in the employer’s contribution to the health-benefit plan,” Nakanelua said.

In addition, Baptiste has asked for and gotten support from members of the County Council to buy equipment, both light and heavy, the workers need to do their jobs, Nakanelua said.

In the first three years of his four-year term, Baptiste, who attended the news conference with UPW leaders from Kaua‘i, said he has met with UPW members on Kaua‘i to find out how to address their needs, and to provide the best services to the community.

“I made a promise to them that we would give them the equipment necessary to do their jobs in an efficient way,” Baptiste said.

As a result of these meetings, county leaders budgeted $6.5 million for the replacement of equipment ranging from small tools such as drills, saws, trimmers and weedwhackers to larger items such as new vehicles, tractors and trailers, Baptiste said.

In April, county officials will be replacing three truck tractors, three transfer trailers, a pay loader, backhoe and a refuse truck, Baptiste said.

Baptiste said he also supported the use of $790,000 to buy new equipment, including two transfer trailers, a six-cubic-yard refuse truck, riding mowers, bush shredders, pressure washers, a dump truck, and a water-tank truck.

The UPW workers employed by leaders of the County of Kaua‘i take care of refuse transfer stations, drive heavy trucks, and work at county baseyards.

Nakanelua said the workers provide “core services” to the community, and that “without those services, pretty much the infrastructure in the various communities really, really would be in jeopardy.”

Baptiste said a guiding management doctrine is to provide workers with the tools they need to do their jobs. “In exchange, I ask for an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay,” he said. “And I think that is needed.”

UPW members on Kaua‘i also threw their support behind Baptiste because he has been honest in his relationship with them, Nakanelua said. “We find him to be honest, truthful and candid,” he said.

Baptiste said he was deeply humbled by the show of support from the UPW. “I have a lot of respect for the hard-working UPW members, who are the heart and soul of county government,” Baptiste said.

Also attending the news conference to show support for Baptiste’s re-election bid this year were Rowena Tachibana, Gerald Aqui and Dennis Sarita, all executive officers of the Kaua‘i UPW’s Political Action Committee; Roy Morita, UPW business agent on Kaua‘i; Derwin Abalos, UPW steward for the repair shop of the county Department of Public Works; Clayton Cataluna, steward for the DPW Parks Division; Virgie B. Sagisi, a shop steward for Public Works; Blue Ragragola; Leilani Mindoro, UPW business agent on Kaua‘i; and Diann Berndt, administrator for UPW Field Services.

Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com.

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