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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 5, 2006

Teamsters vote to replace Kahele

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer


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Hawai'i Teamsters elected longtime union official Ron Kozuma as their new president yesterday, ousting president Mel Kahele.

A slate headed by Kozuma won the three-way race to head the Teamsters and Allied Workers Local 996, Kozuma said.

Kozuma received 1,076 votes to Kahele's 838. A third candidate, Mark Komomua, received 501 votes. Kozuma will take over the position Jan. 1.

"I think the members just felt it was time for a change," Kozuma said. "We're ready to go in a new direction."

Kozuma said one of his priorities will be to restore Teamster unity after an election campaign that he said included a lot of negative campaigning.

"We made a commitment not to bad mouth anyone, and I think the members responded to that," said Kozuma, who has been secretary-treasurer of Local 996 since 1996.

Kahele, a blunt-talking, hard-nosed union official, had headed the local since 1996, narrowly winning re-election in 2003 and 2000.

Although he led the local through dozens of contract negotiations and other union business for a decade, he is best known by the public for leading two prominent strikes here, one by city bus drivers and mechanics that paralyzed public transportation in Honolulu for 34 days in 2003, and another by concrete workers that crippled the construction industry for 43 days in 2004.

In all the local represents more than 5,600 workers at more than 60 companies across the state.

Reach Mike Leidemann at mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com.