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HGEA member says elected office is a natural place for union members

Matthew Weyer (second from right) and other city councilmembers at the swearing-in ceremony in January.
HGEA member says elected office is a natural place for union members
By Pete Levine ·
Tags: Our Stories
HGEA member says elected office is a natural place for union members
Matthew Weyer

It was during the COVID-19 pandemic that former HGEA member Matt Weyer decided to run for Honolulu City Council. He was driving to work and passed by Aloha Stadium, where food was being distributed to people in need.

“The line [for food] was stretched along the highway for over a mile, and seeing so many families struggling really hit home,” recalls Weyer.

Though Weyer had worked in public service before – first as a domestic violence prosecutor, then as a city planner focusing on homelessness, where he became an HGEA member in 2020 – seeing the devastation that the pandemic caused to his home state of Hawaii motivated him to run for office in Honolulu, where he was raised.

Now, the newly elected City Council District 2 councilmember brings his experience as a public service worker and union member to his day-to-day responsibilities. He believes that public office is a natural fit for union members.

“As a union member, you’re a worker who understands what it’s like on the ground. You have the knowledge and expertise to know what works best and what makes peoples’ lives better,” says Weyer.

Union members also make effective legislators, Weyer believes, because they know how to be good advocates and they understand how local government works.

Those are all skills that Weyer employs in his job today.

The staggering cost of living in Hawaii, climate change, the growing need for emergency preparedness and a chronic shortage of city workers to perform necessary jobs (Weyer says Honolulu is short 3,000 city workers, mirroring a dangerous trend across the country) are all challenges Weyer is tackling now that he is an elected official.

But Weyer knows that he’s closer to meeting those challenges thanks to the dedication of Honolulu’s public service workers.

“They’re passionate about what they do,” says Weyer. “It’s tangible. You feel it when you go home and you get to see it when you go by – the parks, street maintenance, ocean safety. They understand the totality of the picture.”

Though Weyer is no longer an HGEA member now that he’s in office, he still carries the same passion of public service with him, and encourages other union members to run for office.

“We need more!” he says.

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