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Union leaders’ salaries reflect members’ woes


The average salary of Hawaii’s labor leaders was little changed in 2010 as some private- and public-sector union officials accepted pay freezes or cuts that mirrored those experienced by rank-and-file members.

Executives of the top 25 unions earned an average of $157,596 in compensation last year, up 1.1 percent from the year before, according to an analysis of data from the U.S. Labor Department and the Internal Revenue Service. The packages include salaries as well as other payments for things like business expenses.

Thirteen officials received raises, seven took pay cuts and three had no change in their compensation. Two of the leaders were new to their jobs and had no comparable salary for the previous year.

The top earner last year was T. George Paris, executive director of the Hawaii Iron Workers Stabilization Fund. His $394,998 salary was virtually unchanged from 2009.

The union leader taking the biggest pay cut was Dayton Nakanelua, director of the 14,000-member United Public Workers Union. A 5 percent reduction in his base pay to $139,841, combined with a reduction in other payments, knocked his total compensation down by 19 percent.

"My reduction in compensation was due to the fact that public-sector union members in city, county and state positions were experiencing furloughs," Nakanelua said. "When we negotiated the furloughs, I said I would reduce my pay accordingly. It was difficult for the workers to endure, and I felt I should do the same. It was the principle."

The UPW also is having to deal with declining membership as state and county government budgets are cut and vacancies aren’t being filled, he said. "We’re all having to do more with less due to declining revenues."

The administration of former Gov. Linda Lingle negotiated the furloughs with several public employee unions in late 2009 as state revenue plunged in the wake of the economic downturn.

Hawaii Carpenters Union Financial Secretary Ronald Taketa saw his pay frozen at $220,000 in 2010 for the second year in a row. The union’s bylaws tie Taketa’s salary to that of the roughly 7,000 members who agreed in 2009 to a two-year pay freeze.

"It’s only right that I follow the rank and file," Taketa said. The union’s office staff also accepted a pay freeze even though it wasn’t required to, he added.

The building industry was one of the hardest-hit sectors of Hawaii’s economy during the recession, and it has yet to recover. The 28,100 average monthly employment in the construction sector so far this year compares with an average of 39,100 a month during the height of the construction boom in 2007, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The pay package for J.N. Musto, executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, rose 8 percent to $199,651. His base salary is tied to movements in the salaries of the bargaining unit with a one-year lag.

"My increases mirror those the faculty has gotten on average," Musto said.

Musto’s pay increase in 2010 reflected a raise the union members negotiated for fiscal year 2009. He can expect a reduction in fiscal year 2011 after the union’s acceptance last year of a pay cut.

The salary of Hawaii Government Employees Association Executive Director Randy Perreira also is tied to the wages of union membership. However, because Perreira’s salary information is reported on a lagging basis, it did not fully reflect the impact of the 2010 worker furloughs.


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