In Hawaiian Gardens, a Novel Union Structure Keeps Labor Peace

Don't let its size fool you.

When it comes to labor rights, the City of Hawaiian Gardens is tiny, but mighty. 

Hawaiian Gardens is the smallest city in Los Angeles County, just under one square mile, and has about 80 employees.  It is also one of only a handful of Southland cities in which both the rank and file workers and the managers belong  to the same union,  AFSCME Local 3624.

Joe Colombo, the City's Planning Director and the immediate past President of the managers' chapter, says the novel union structure serves as "a big advantage" for everyone in the Local, as it serves to create an unusual bond among co-workers across the board. 

"We don’t have that ‘you vs. them’ scenario;  it feels like we’re all part of the same team," Columbo says. "We’re not at each other’s throats or competing or trying to throw people under the bus."

City Clerk Lucie Colombo is President of the Managers' chapter -- and the first woman to ever hold that office. 

“The union advocates for management employees to have fair and equitable rights and represents the employees in assuring that those rights are protected,” she says.

In another unsuual labor-management dynamic, the union's leadership has some very nice things to say about the City Council that approves their union contracts.  Joe Columbo believes that their relationship with the elected officials of the City is less adversarial and more cooperative, which maintains labor stability and keeps employee morale up.

“The City Council receives us very well and they support us,” he says. “We are a union City.”

Pictured from left: Local President, City Clerk Lucie Colombo, Executive Assistant to the City Manager Shavon Moore, Human Services Supervisor Glynn Cornell (Past President), Accountant Connie Sepulveda (Treasurer), Planning Director Joe Colombo (Immediate Past President), and Housing Supervisor Gloria Thomas (Secretary).