In Privatization

The intent of our initial visit to the Sand Island baseyard in Honolulu was to find out more about nearly $1M in cost savings achieved by our very own “Team Clean”, responsible for maintaining storm drains, keeping vital shipments to our islands uninterrupted and our harbors safe and clean for residents and visitors. That afternoon, Mike Milis and Walter Aguinaldo, both BU 01 members, were busy lubricating the Vactor Truck, which was in use all day (cleaning in and around storm drains).

“This is the hardest part,” said Mike, “but it only has to be done once a week.” While it might be easy to slack on this responsibility, supervisory staff nowhere to be found, Mike and Walter take pride in the work they do—understanding the truck is vital to helping them maintain a level of service that earned them top honors in 2015 as “Team of the Year”. In 2015, under the pressure of a federal consent decree, the team helped devise and initiate a Best Management Practices plan involving drain inspection, maintenance and outreach to stencil more than 700 storm drains. A task that would normally cost $1.5M, if contracted out, was drastically reduced to just $530,000.

Having been awarded the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (WASHTO) award (two years in a row!) and “Team of the Year” in 2015, what says more about the level of pride in service of UPW members with DOT Harbors is the attitude, sense of camaraderie and genuine work ethic. Humility seemed to be the common theme among all we asked about the awards.

From refuse collectors to heavy equipment operators, they have a clear understanding of the important work they do for our community as Civil Servants. This year, the goal was alleviating traffic for the public on Nimitz Highway and Auiki Street, which runs parallel to Nimitz. They accomplished this through the construction of a 3rd access road to the Young Brothers shipping yard for truckers, earning them the WASHTO award a 2nd year in a row! Yet, no one seemed to want to take credit for it.

Instead, Everyone was working, quickly, to brace for a one-two punch from impending hurricanes Madeline and Lester. Winds already picking up, considerably, equipment needed to be secured and tied down. Storm drains
sprawling from Pier 1 in Honolulu Harbor all the way out to Kalaeloa had to be cleared and ready to accept torrential rains. Anticipating flooding, everyone in the baseyard responsible for a vehicle had begun the daily practice of topping off fuel tanks in an effort to ensure they were ready for a move to higher ground.

Superintendent Ronald Kapuniai said he had already asked all his working supervisors to remain on-call over the weekend. Even in small storms, he says, huge tree trunks and all kinds of debris imaginable runs off into the harbors with heavy rain. It is the job of our Bargaining Unit 01 Harbors Personnel to retrieve that debris, clearing the way for residents and businesses to receive their deliveries via shipments coming in at the harbors.

“There’s only so much you can do beforehand,” said Refuse Collector Nelson Boise. “The real help will come after the storm.”

We escaped Madeline and Lester only to be pummeled by rain over the weekend of September 10th and through Tuesday, September 13th—the storm that didn’t even seem to be on the radar washed out parking lots and significantly expanded natural riverbeds in Iao Valley on the Island of Maui. Without fail, crews from the DOT Harbors Division were out, bright and early on the morning of September 13th, trolling our coastlines for unwieldy debris flushed out of our rivers in  the flash flooding. It is a race against time to get the heavier debris before it sinks to the bottom of the harbor, putting ships and their crews in danger of damage to propellers and hulls. Their work also helps to keep the State out of hot water with legal claims. UPW Chief Steward Jon McKee says the Harbors Division crews do as much as possible to keep costs down before having to put a bid out for dredging with private contractors.

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