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Law protecting local jobs is unenforced, workers say

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Craig T. Kojima / ckojima@staradvertiser.com

More than three dozen union members were at the state Capitol yesterday seeking enforcement of a law meant to ensure local workers are hired for state projects.

Officials of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 50, representing more than 2,000 painters, metal and glassworkers, said the government has not enforced Act 68, which requires at least 80 percent of workers on state construction jobs be Hawaii residents. The law was passed last year.

The union members showed up without an appointment at the offices of Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz. They met with Schatz and Abercrombie’s spokeswoman, Donalyn Dela Cruz.

"Over half of our members are unemployed right now," said Nathaniel Kinney, the union’s director of business development. "They’ve been unemployed, some of them for up to two years. All across the building trades … there’s that level of unemployment and underemployment."

Just over a month ago, Lynn Kinney, a union leader and Nathaniel’s father, was arrested at the state Department of Accounting and General Services during a protest over local jobs going to mainland workers.

"We have reason to believe some companies hired since the act was put into place may not be complying with the law," said Mitchell Shimabukuro, a union agent, in a press release. "There are provisions in the law that provide for investigation."

But Bruce Coppa, state comptroller at DAGS, said contractors must substantiate that they’ve met the 80 percent local-hire requirement on state projects.

"We’re following what the law says. I can only go with what they provide," he said. "Unless somebody can show otherwise, I have to take their word for it."

If contractors do not meet the requirement, the state can bar them from bidding on future projects, Coppa said.

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