New members of the State Executive Board (SEB) Teresita Tagudin, Billy Kaneholani and George Abalos from Kauai; Steve Ramseyer and Marinna Carr from the Private Sector; Emma Taylor, Patricia Hoopii and Howard Kahue from Oahu; Sandy Arce-English and Javan York from Maui; and Eddie Hue from Hawaii just returned from a week-long study tour with AFSCME – our National Union in Washington, DC. While they were allowed a few hours to experience and learn about the Nation’s Capitol, SEB members were kept busy on a daily basis in training sessions, learning how the National Union works with our Local Union to improve working conditions for our working families.
Picket signs in hand, our UPW delegation turned out with AFSCME International President Lee Saunders on Tuesday, April 8 in support of the House Democratic push to extend Unemployment Insurance for the long-term jobless.
On Wednesday, SEB members lobbied our Hawaii Congressional Delegates after morning training at the National Union. An issue of importance raised during lobbying sessions with Senator Mazie Hirono, Representatives Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard included immigration reform. In fact, SEB members attended a rally for immigration reform where they met up with AFSCME International Secretary-Treasurer Laura Reyes who had been demonstrating on the grounds of the Capitol through the “Fast for Families”. Touched by speakers who literally live in fear of deportation, SEB members led by Emma Taylor from the Hawaii State Hospital had no problem going to bat to speak out against the exploitation of immigrant workers. Terisita Tagudin spoke to representatives Hanabusa and Gabbard about her own experiences with the broken immigration system. She also pointed out the difficulties others have had with applying for a visa, asking the representatives how immigrants can be expected to raise the high fees for a visa without a visa and the means to legally generate income.
All in all, it was a learning experience. “Getting involved with AFSCME was the best decision UPW ever made. With the 1.6 Million members across the country, we have strength in numbers and we just need to get more people involved,” said Billy Kaneholani. “There is no excuse for us to have departments without Chief Stewards and Stewards, because that’s the first step to getting involved. United we are stronger, divided we fall,” continued Kaneholani.
Apart from a chance to get right in there and speak their minds in the political forum, SEB members took advantage of an opportunity to learn about how AFSCME is working for us. In addition to providing a voice for us at the National Level, they are conducting in-depth research to better communicate our message with the government and the general public – research that helps the government and general public understand that the services we provide are needed in order for us to function properly as a nation. After all, we are AFSCME…WE MAKE AMERICA HAPPEN!