Duke Nakamatsu

Union Member Wears Many Hats

APRIL 2017

What do a union member leader, a clown, a yoga teacher and an acupuncturist have in common? They’re one and the same person — Duke Nakamatsu, a very active Unit 3 member and a commission support clerk for the Department of Planning at the County of Kauai.

As someone who wears many hats — and occasionally different faces — Nakamatsu essentially has his days chock-full of numerous activities and events, all related to his various jobs and interests. He is passionate about everything he does and is always eager to learn something new.

Nakamatsu says he is fortunate to have his stable county job. “What I value most about my job are the 40-hour work weeks and weekends off that allow me to pursue my other endeavors such as treating patients, teaching yoga and the occasional clowning around,” he acknowledges. “I also value my medical benefits, sick leave, and especially my vacation leave that allows me to visit my favorite Disney places.”

Yet it is because of his full-time job that he works part-time “to supplement my government pay,” Nakamatsu adds, half-jokingly. A member of the Unit 3 negotiating team, as well as chair of Unit 3 Kauai Island Division and member of several different committees, the longtime steward understands the struggles of workers in Hawaii. Coming from a family where one parent was part of a union and the other worked for an anti-union employer, Nakamatsu saw the differences, heard the complaints about constant policy changes and cutting of hours, and recognized how beneficial a union was.

That’s what keeps him going and involved with HGEA. “If people want to see a change, if they’re not happy with certain things, then they need to step up and become involved,” he says. “There were a lot of questions I had, too, as far as why things are a certain way, and it wasn’t until I actually became involved that I learned the processes and the steps involved in grievances and negotiations, the whole overall operations of why things are the way they are and how we got to where we are today. It’s important to continue to fight for the things we have because they can go any time.”

Nakamatsu recommends more members, particularly Next Wavers, get involved with HGEA. “We are only as strong as our members,” he asserts. “And now more than ever, with the attacks on unions at the Supreme Court level and throughout the nation, we need to stand strong and stay together to fight to protect and preserve the rights and benefits we enjoy now.”

On a less serious note, Nakamatsu thoroughly enjoys his job at the County – although he recognizes the challenges of increasing duties and skills as a result of positions not being filled or replaced – as well as his busy life outside of work, which helps him maintain his positive outlook.

A certified yoga instructor, Nakamatsu teaches beginner yoga twice a week at Ho‘ola Lahui Hawaii, an organization that focuses on the health needs of Native Hawaiians. Since 2001, he has been a licensed acupuncturist and is owner of Kauai Acupuncture & Wellness. He just recently retired from 25 years of successful clowning, which helped put him through acupuncture school. Whether it was birthday parties or promotional events, he was the clown to entertain and make people laugh and smile. Adding to his long list of varied interests, he is also an avid foodie and Disney fanatic.

Nakamatsu reveals that he was in his first musical last year. No matter what new experience or skill he takes on, we can be sure that he will give it his all.