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Power failure hurts some Ewa businesses

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Dozens of Ewa Beach businesses were assessing lost sales yesterday after Hawaiian Electric Co. restored their power using nonunion workers.

Strong wind and rain knocked out electricity Friday to about 8,000 HECO customers, mostly in Ewa Beach. HECO’s union workers went on strike Friday at 3:30 p.m. The company said yesterday that power was restored to all but 70 customers.

‘Ohana PCS at the Ewa Town Center was closed all day Friday and part of Saturday morning after power was cut off, potentially losing as much as $5,600 in revenue — the amount the store made on the first Friday a month earlier, said sales manager Monica Toma.

"The first Friday of the month is probably the busiest because it’s a lot of people’s payday. There are bill payments and people are looking to shop," she said.

"We (the employees) are all Ewa Beach residents. We weren’t able to go to work, and we go home and we don’t have electricity. Getting in and out of the area was crazy."

Friday also is one of the busier sales days for Ewa Seed Co., also at the Ewa Town Center, which lost as much as $500, according to co-owner Dean Hashimoto. About 100 customers a day typically shop at the store.

"I doubt if we even had 50," Hashimoto said.

Loco Moco Ewa Beach at the Ewa Beach Shopping Center was forced to discard between $200 and $300 worth of food, according to manager Gabriel Lau.

The restaurant lost power for about 24 hours and was open for about seven of its usual 14 hours on Friday and Saturday.

"It was crowded in here, and we had to try to sell what was going to spoil quicker," he said.

Hashimoto said he doesn’t blame HECO workers for leaving their posts to walk the picket lines.

"I know they took a big public relations hit, but I don’t see anything really malicious about it — it was just an unfortunate circumstance," he said.

"The strike (doesn’t put them) in the best light, but I don’t think they could have planned it. You don’t know even if they were working what could’ve or would’ve been done expeditiously."

Lawrence Boyd, an economist with the Center for Labor, Education and Research at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu, said despite the negative publicity, the majority of Hawaii residents support unions.

"Just because you see overwhelming negative comments by people inconvenienced by a strike, that’s not a true gauge of public sentiment," he said.

"Most people really don’t like HECO and the management of HECO. I would also bet if there was an up-or-down poll for HECO management or the union … people would overwhelmingly choose the union."

 

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