What started as a 30-second campaign to highlight the work of Honolulu Local 1260 has turned into a monthly segment with a spotlight on the members.
KHON, a local television station and signatory of Local 1260, was set to air a 30-second spot about the local and its positive impact in the community. Then they heard about a volunteer trip one of the members had taken. The executives loved the story so much they decided to air a segment on it. That was the beginning of a series showcasing Local 1260’s members.
Each segment in the series, called “Living Local 1260,” has a different focus but they all touch on the local’s sense of ‘ohana,’ a Hawaiian word for family in an expansive sense, one that stretches beyond blood ties.
“Being part of this organization, being part of this ohana, is being part of this state,” said Local 1260 Business Manager Brian Ahakuelo. “IBEW is out there supporting our members all the time.”
The segments air monthly at 8 a.m. on a morning news magazine show called “Living 808,” named after the local area code. They are set to run indefinitely.
There are about 40 members who work at the station and about six to eight work on the “Living Local 1260” series itself. Members shoot and edit the video and when the segment airs, another group of members work on the broadcast.
When Mark Staszkow decided to accompany his wife, also a union member, on a trip to Bolivia, he didn’t know it would spark a news series. He just knew that his skills would come in handy. Using the expertise he acquired through his job, including his knowledge of water filtration, he was able to help the South American community they were serving access clean water and get medical aid, some for the first time. He also showed them how to construct a rudimentary water system.
Staszkow knew that the trip would not have been possible if he didn’t have the support of his union. As he mentions in the segment, he and his wife self-financed the trip, something they could only do because of their union salaries. And they had three weeks of vacation time to spend, a luxury that not all working people have.
It’s stories like this that “Living 808” anchors Trini Kaopuiki and Taizo Braden showcase. The series has aired four videos so far. The others feature member David Finn and his work with the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Joseph “JC” Ventura and Jennifer Deschamps sharing the ways in which their union membership has improved their lives and allowed them to live a middle class lifestyle.
Deschamps, a third generation union member, learned the value of a good union job from her family. It allowed her grandfather, a Filipino immigrant, the opportunity to buy a home and she is able to support her stepson.
“We’re not buying yachts, but we’re able to live comfortably,” Deschamps said.
With Hawaii being one of the most unionized states in the nation, Ahakuelo and other leaders want the series to show the many ways in which unions and their members are not only thriving themselves but giving back. According to Ahakuelo, union members are enthusiastic contributors to the local United Way. Members can also be found pitching in at food banks, at various charity events and helping with highway cleanup. Local 1260 was also honored with an award from the Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter where Finn and others volunteer.
Volunteerism provides a positive boost and sense of purpose to volunteers themselves. And being in a place where volunteerism is encouraged only makes the experience better.
“Being a 1260 member and being around other members who share that same vision has definitely helped in being a better employee, being a better husband and being a better community member.” Finn said.