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HMSA Member News > Board Member ProfileWinter 2013 IS Magazine

Forming a Healthy Union

HGEA leader values community service to make a difference.

By Craig DeSilva

Randy Perreira learned the importance of community service early in life.

“Growing up in Hilo, everybody knew everybody,” says the veteran union leader. “Because of the plantations, there’s a strong sense of helping each other out. We made sure we did right by others and pitched in to help.”

As a child, Perreira’s parents would take him to community functions they were involved in. So when he was asked to serve on the HMSA Board of Directors last year, Perreira didn’t think twice. It’s not as if he needed more work. As executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), Perreira is in charge of advocating for the 43,000 employees in Hawai‘i’s largest union. He also serves on the boards of other organizations that make a difference in communities. They include Aloha United Way, Bishop Museum, and Lanakila Pacific Foundation, which helps the developmentally disabled. He is on the board of trustees for The Queen’s Health Systems and served on the board of Sacred Hearts Academy, where his daughters attend school.

Perreira has worked on other community projects that focus on important health and welfare issues in Hawai‘i, so he feels he has a lot to contribute to HMSA. “Increasing health care costs are a big concern for the union,” he says. “It’s not something you tag the insurers or providers with. It’s a reality that we in society face. The cost of providing health care is growing at a rate that will surpass all of our abilities as individuals to pay.”

He believes initiatives such as HMSA’s Well-Being Connection, which focuses on improving the well-being of HMSA members, will help contain costs. He’s also encouraged by the payment model between HMSA and hospitals that rewards providers based on successful health outcomes for patients, and not just on the number of procedures they perform.

Perreira is deeply concerned about the wages and health benefits of Hawai‘i’s working people. He grew up learning the struggles that people endured before unions. His grandfather, a truck driver for a Hawai‘i Island sugar plantation, became disabled during an accident on the job. “I’d cash his check for him at the bank and wonder how he survived on so little money,” he says.

He didn’t know it back then, but Perreira received on-the-job training when he was a teenager. His dad, Herbert Perreira, who was HGEA’s Hawai‘i Island division chief, suffered from progressive eye failure. Perreira would open his dad’s business mail and read it to him. He’d also accompany his dad to work functions and meetings.

Perreira attended college on the Mainland and received a business degree from Notre Dame and an M.B.A. from Michigan State University. He returned to Hawai‘i, expecting to quickly land a high-paying job in Honolulu. Instead, HGEA hired him as an entry-level union agent.

“Today I think it was the best thing that happened to me,” he says. “The one value I learned that I teach the staff now is starting on the bottom forced me to meet a lot of people I was representing. And I established relationships with people who I still work with today. What matters is forming relationships and getting along with others. If you want to live and work in Hawai‘i, you have to live and play nicely.”

Perreira takes that same theory while playing in his softball league in Enchanted Lake. And despite a hectic work schedule, he makes it a priority to spend quality time with his wife, Sue, and their three daughters.

“I tell people here at work that the most important thing to do is mind your family,” he says.

And that makes all the difference.

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