Local telco Mobi unionizes with CEO backing

The latest union story in Hawaiʻi includes what may come as a surprise – the decision to unionize won the support of the CEO.

Local telecommunications company Mobi has formed a union with the Communication Workers of America. The company founded in 2005 has approximately 55 employees and two stores in Oʻahu.

When the majority of Mobi employees expressed their desire to unionize, CEO Justen Burdette said he saw no need to break up unions.

“Our hope is that not a lot will change drastically, but that it will provide a better structure to protect those things that we’ve worked so hard to build as a team,” Burdette told HPR.

Burdette grew up in a West Virginia coal town where her father was a member of the United Mine Workers of America. The union helped her mother follow up when her father passed away.

“As someone who had a positive personal experience – even if it was very early in my life – I think that meant that when our team started having conversations with the CWA, I didn’t have that knee-jerk reaction that often people at the management level might have,” Burdette said.

Mobi employees have attended several meetings with the CWA to discuss the specifics of organizing a union within the company. They also attended the CWA conference to learn more about the negotiation process.

Mobi employee Kalei Afong said, “I would like to see pay rises for our Mobi workers just because there is inflation, there are a lot of hard times going on right now. With the increase in wages, that could really help us.”

CWA President Christopher Shelton said he hoped other telecommunications companies would follow Mobi’s decision to unionize.

Sean B. Jackson