The ongoing soap opera of collective bargaining


POSTED: Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What we have here is “;Rashomon: 2010.”;

The original “;Rashomon”; was set in ancient Japan and details a heinous crime and the various and contradictory versions of the truth. In this Hawaii political version, there are no murders, but there is a rapidly expanding number of descriptions about Gov. Linda Lingle, the four public worker unions and whether they are actually at the bargaining table. The subplot, as it is in everything until the Nov. 2, 2010, election, is about the race for governor.

First we had a soap opera as Lingle went from taking shots at everyone from the Senate president (”;she doesn't know what she is talking about”;) to Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann (”;he is muddying the water”;).

And the unions played to the gallery when Randy Perreira, Hawaii Government Employees Association executive director said, “;The governor has been lying to the press.”;

Orchestrating the latest drama is Hannemann, who assembled the four counties, University of Hawaii, judiciary, Education Department and Hawaii Health Systems Corp. to “;reach an understanding in principle on the basis for a new collective bargaining pact for state and county workers.”;

Hannemann says it was to get Lingle to the bargaining table. No details were released after Monday's talk session but the unions were more than happy to say the proposed deal was a 5 percent pay cut for workers.

Lingle, who had been holding firm at a 14 percent pay cut, rebuffed Hannemann, saying no meeting until she gets a formal proposal; the unions, marveling in the virtues of “;informal talk story”; sessions, finally blinked and gave Lingle the formal offer.

So how big a negotiator is Hannemann? Was this gubernatorial-class leadership as he skillfully steered the parties together? Those who are on the Hannemann Gubernatorial Exploratory Committee must think this is just the proof the public needs.

But how easy is it for Hannemann to get all those parties together when the final bill is given to Lingle? It is the state that picks up the bill for the main course, while the mayors are only in for pupus.

Also, Lingle was the one showing furloughs and threatening layoffs if unions didn't agree. It was Lingle who said she would not meet without a formal proposal.

With no clear deadline set, it is likely that the union drama will continue its run, but somewhere along the line it will be up to Lingle to prove that it must be only her hand on the steering wheel.


Richard Borreca writes on politics every Wednesday. Reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).