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Local telecommunications company Mobi unionizes with support of CEO

Justen Burdette

The latest union story in Hawaiʻi includes what may be a surprise — the move to unionize won the support of the CEO.

The local telecommunications company Mobi has formed a union with the Communications Workers of America. The company founded in 2005 has about 55 employees and two store locations on Oʻahu.

When the majority of Mobi employees expressed their desire to unionize, CEO Justen Burdette says he did not see the need for union busting.

"Our hope is that not a whole lot changes radically, but that it does provide some greater structure for protecting those things that we worked so hard to build as a team," Burdette told HPR.

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

"As someone who has had positive personal experience — although it was very early in my life — I think that meant when our team began having conversations with the CWA, I didn’t have that knee-jerk reaction that a lot of times folks at the management level might have," Burdette said.

Mobi employees participated in 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 bargaining process.

Mobi employee Kalei Afong said, "I would like to see wage increases for our Mobi workers only because there’s inflation, there’s a lot of hard times that’s going on now. With the wage increase, it could really help us."

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

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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