to the Editor

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Friday, October 23, 1998

State of the Unions

Series attempted to demonize unions

Your Oct. 16 editorial seems to indicate your old, tiresome idea that labor unions and the Democratic establishment are in bed with each other. If this is true, why couldn't state workers, despite strong union lobbying, get the Democratic-controlled Legislature to give us the rather modest raise (5 percent over two years) that arbitrators awarded state employees?

If the unions really had the governor and Legislature in their pockets, the raise would have sailed through the Legislature quite easily.

Facts like this elude union haters, who like to believe that labor is the cause of Hawaii's problems, rather than putting the blame where it belongs -- on the high cost of living, which causes people to work two jobs and to neglect their families.

Instead of creating jealousy and resentment against state employees because of our good work benefits, your newspaper should use its editorial clout to push for a higher minimum wage for residents, as well as mandatory vacation and sick leave benefits in the private sector that match what state employees get.

Joseph O'Brien

Historical perspective was missing from stories

Your union series lacked the depth of an objective review. Without a historical look at the reasons for organized labor, you trivialize the loss of human life and limb in the growth and development of fair labor laws.

Left out were references to the National Labor Relations Act, the Taft-Hartley Act and Railway Labor Act (all of which played a role in the development of Hawaii's Collective Bargaining Law), and all necessary federal legislation to right the wrongs suffered by thousands of employees at the hands of unreasonable, capricious, discriminating employers. Also left out was that:

bullet History proves that federal and state legislation was enacted to equalize the playing field between employer and employee.

bullet Benefits taken for granted today are a result of the literal blood, sweat and tears of employees, who sacrificed their personal and employment futures by seeking redress, equality and equity more than 40 years ago.

bullet Notwithstanding the gains made over the years, little has changed to eliminate the sometimes insidious ways that employers manipulate their power to wreak personal havoc on the lives of their rank-and-file workers.

As a former arbitrator, former employee of a local union and as a practicing attorney in the field of labor/management relations, I am appalled at the length employers continue to go to bastardize current rules and regulations, and collective bargaining laws and contracts, to be personally vindictive toward employees.

Peter Liholiho Trask

Union benefits should be goal of private workers

The Star-Bulletin's "State of the Unions" report (especially Monday's report on public and private worker benefits) brought back fond memories for me. You reminded me of a high school history class, whose teacher returned student essay papers with this advice. "If you see another paper with a higher grade than yours, and think that your work is just as good, bring me the two papers, and I'll gladly lower the other person's grade."

Of course the teacher was being facetious. However, I fear your paper is serious in suggesting to workers that if they envy the rights and benefits accrued to unionized public employees, they should go to the teacher (government) to have their neighbor's rights reduced.

A far better comparison you could have made than that between public vs. private employees would have been the contrast between benefits of organized workers, and those who have not yet won the right of union representation.

This would have clearly shown that the difference is not public vs. private, but organized vs. unorganized workers. It also points to a solution to envy -- form a union.

Increasing government efficiency is a noble and appropriate cause, but we must beware of those who use this rhetoric as a disguise for an agenda to reduce the democratic rights of workers. Rather than a race to the bottom, let us strive to raise the living standards of all workers.

Kaleo Kama'unu
(Via the Internet)

Does automated trash collection save money?

In an Oct. 13 article in your "State of the Unions" series, a statement was made that the conversion of the city trash collection to its automated system will save millions of taxpayer dollars.

I am intrigued by the operation, even though somewhat annoyed by the increased noise as the truck proceeds up and down our street. Under the old system, collection was done in one pass, so I timed the process and compared it to the old system. That's when I realized it took at least three times as long as before.

That must mean that three times as many trucks must be needed, and the same for the number of employees. In addition, the trucks are obviously more expensive than the old ones, and the cost of the wheeled containers must also be added. Furthermore, I would expect that the job rating of the drivers would have to be raised, thus increasing labor costs.

In view of the above, I am unable to accept the claim of all that savings. On the contrary, it must be more costly than before. Perhaps there are other costs of which I am not aware, which change the picture. What they are? I would really like to know.

Clifford B. Terry

Employees of House are not unionized

In response to your Oct. 14 article, "Civil service managers torn between ranks," while the state House has in the past employed retired union members as "session only" employees, all full-time permanent employees serve "at will." Our terms of employment are coterminous with our respective appointing authorities, i.e. the speaker or an individual member.

House employees are not unionized and are not included in any of the statutorily specified government collective bargaining units.

Patricia Mau-Shimizu
Hawaii House Clerk

Strength of public unions is worthy of coverage

Before I even read your series, I commend you. The dominance of the unions in Hawaii needs to be addressed.

As much as one would like, Hawaii is not isolated. Old boy politics and outdated work practices will keep us a day late and a dollar short. It infuriates me that job security prevents progress or that an unfortunate state worker complains that she has to travel 27 miles (probably against traffic!) to her new office.

Sueann Carter
(Via the Internet)

Nepotism in government has led to state's downfall

In the late 1970s, I applied to several public agencies for posted job positions. I dutifully followed up my applications with phone calls to the personnel departments inquiring about status of my application(s), but was always told the position(s) had been filled.

A couple years and numerous job applications later a casual acquaintance (then working for a public agency) informed me that hiring for public jobs was done on the basis of nepotism. Disillusioned, I decided to try my luck in California. I now work for a reputable non-union aerospace company that has been in business for 65 years, with a base salary in the $60,000 range.

With the current state of nepotism in public hiring, coupled with the stranglehold the unions have on attempts to initiate change for efficiency, Hawaii will continue to lose many of its bright, innovative young minds to mainland companies.

Burt Endrozo
Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

(Via the Internet)

Commission hasn't yet ruled on worker rally

Sam Slom made a misstatement in your Oct. 15 story on labor unions, "United they stand." He erroneously said that the State Ethics Commission gave an "opinion" that Governor Cayetano's Worker Appreciation Day rally on state Capitol grounds did not violate the State Ethics Code.

The Hawaii Republican Party filed a formal charge on Sept. 1 with the commission, alleging that the rally violated state ethics laws. The formal charge is still being examined by our office. We have not yet issued an opinion on this matter.

The formal charges may be dismissed for lack of evidence, or we may issue an opinion on whether there has been a violation of our state ethics laws. Furthermore, we may proceed to a formal hearing if the commission believes one is warranted.

Daniel J. Mollway
Executive Director
Hawaii State Ethics Commission

Union series provided a needed public service

I read every word of your series concerning the unions in Hawaii. I must congratulate Richard Borreca and the other writers who participated. This series is absolutely the greatest since you blew the lid off the Bishop Estate last year.

Unfortunately, I doubt if this series will help much in releasing the unions' hold on the state. But I hope that, at least, it has made thousands of readers aware of the problem.

William G. Burlingame Sr.
(Via the Internet)

State of the Unions
State of the Unions Special

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