Photo from Walter Kupau Jr Instagram page
Convicted Meth Dealer Asks Federal Court Permission to Take Over Laborer’s Union
by Andrew Walden
Corruption in local building trades unions is creating an opening for challengers seeking union leadership positions.
Laborers Union (LIUNA) local 368 member, Walter Kupau Jr., tells Hawai’i Free Press, “Check out my Instagram, Walter Kupau Jr. It's going to blow up come March, 2023, just before nominations.”
“If my name sounds familiar it's because my dad was President of the Hawaii AFL-CIO and the Business Manager/ Financial Secretary for the Hawaii Carpenters Union Local 745 for over 20 years.”
In 1977, after a ‘melee’ outside his home, Kupau Sr was found guilty of assaulting police officers “to prevent them from chasing his son, 17-year-old Walter Kupau, Jr.” Being State court, Kupau Sr was merely fined $50.
Kupau Sr died in 1999. His obituary explains: “In November 1984, Kupau and three other union staff members…were charged with beating Mililani Town construction manager John Murchinson. At the time, Kupau was free on probation and appeal bond for lying under oath about a 1980 labor dispute on Maui.”
Eventually it was the Feds that busted Kupau Jr, in 2001, as part of a 22-person ring selling methamphetamines in Chinatown. He was paroled in 2011 and released from parole in 2016, but remains blocked from running for union office under a 13-year ban starting “after the end of imprisonment.” (Case 1:01-cr-00313-HG)
More recently, Kupau, Jr, fought and won a Federal Labor Board case after a 2019 rotator cuff injury was used to block him from the LIUNA “out of work list” thus preventing him from being called for jobs. Kupau says this is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. His Instagram page diagrams $150K in lawyers' fees allegedly spent by LIUNA in a futile effort to keep him off the list.
Federal Court records show Kupau, on September 22, 2020, filed a “petition for reduction of his 13-year bar from employment with a labor organization due to his drug trafficking convictions….”
Honolulu Federal Judge Helen Gillmor rejected Kupau’s petition on January 19, 2021, writing: "Defendant has not demonstrated that he has been sufficiently rehabilitated since the commission of the disqualifying drug trafficking crimes such that the 13-year period should be reduced."
Kupau filed his Labor Board case and a parallel case with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, on September 27, 2021.
Hawai’i Free Press asked Kupau if he is planning to run for a LIUNA 368 leadership office in 2023 or 2026.
“No I am not planning to run for office but I am encouraging many construction members in other trades to run against their union leaders. I am advocating for term limits of nine years max for labor leaders. I am focused on uprooting Damien Kim, Business Manager of Local 1186 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for his role in Pegasus and HART. Peter Ganaban, Business Manager of Local 368 Hawaii Laborers Union for his role in discriminating against members and the employment of his wife as ‘executive secretary to the Business Manager’ (himself). And Peter Iriarte, Masons Union Local 630, who also has his family on staff and for his role in cutting the water line of a pig farmer and black-balling members who speak up against him. These people are sick and have an unusual thirst for power. These forever labor leaders are identical to (recently convicted IBEW leader) Brian Ahakuelo but just haven't gotten the exposure that raises red flags with the Feds.”
Peter and Narsi Ganaban declined comment.
DHHL/Anderson/Masons Union Local 630: