Special session is not warranted
THREE years ago, the county and state white-collar employees' union successfully organized a special session of the Legislature to dismantle civil-service reforms attained during the administration of former Gov. Ben Cayetano. Organized labor now is calling for a special session for no other reason than to bribe Democratic legislators in an election year.
In letters to all 61 Democrats in the Legislature, top labor officials called it "imperative before the 2006 election that Democrats make a stand and demonstrate how we are philosophically different from (the) governor and her party." The letter came only days after Democratic lawmakers indicated to the Star-Bulletin's Richard Borreca that they felt no urgency to call a special session.
Democrats gave various reasons for calling the 2003 special session to override vetoes by Governor Lingle, but it did not become obvious until late in the session that its purpose was to reinstate binding arbitration of county and state labor contracts. The session had been orchestrated by the Hawaii Government Employees Association and has resulted in excessive pay raises for their 24,500 members since then.
Binding arbitration was enacted after a 1979 state employee strike, and unions found they could obtain their desired pay increases by asking for twice as much; arbitrators then simply halved the requests, which virtually assured acceptance. Cayetano asked for an end to the expensive game, and the 2001 Legislature agreed.
HGEA and other unions are as desperate this year but appear to desire nothing more than a show of force against Lingle, described in the letter as "a Republican governor with enormous appeal and great popularity."
Signatory Randy Perreira, president of the state AFL-CIO, told Borreca that the letter was intended to inform Democrats that they could expect labor support if they returned for an override session. That quid pro quo is not in the public interest.
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