Concrete strike clouds
economic future


Concrete workers' walkout has begun to hurt the construction industry and other businesses.

TALK about bad timing. Governor Lingle has gone off to Washington, D.C., to boast of Hawaii's healthy economy fueled by a "booming construction industry" that could be brought to its knees by the concrete workers' strike.

The walkout involves just 200 or so Teamsters union members, but its reverberations are being felt through building trades and other businesses and could affect hundreds, if not thousands, of workers across the island if it continues much longer.

Although the governor is reluctant to get mixed up in the labor dispute because it doesn't present an imminent threat to the community's health or safety, the strike is hurting Hawaii's economic well-being. And while Lingle may not have much clout among union leaders, her prodding both the employers and the Teamsters would not be ignored.

A little more than two weeks old, the strike has already idled or slowed work on scores of projects, from single homes and luxury residential high-rises to big-box stores and highway and road repairs.

Almost all construction jobs need concrete, which has been hard to come by since operations at the state's two largest producers, Ameron Hawaii and Hawaiian Cement, have been shut down. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, drywall hangers, painters and others stand to lose pay checks. Businesses that supply construction materials could forfeit sales. Even restaurants and lunch wagons that cater to workers suffer.

Although layoffs are now just a trickle, an official of the Hawaii Carpenters Union says as many as 1,000 members could be out of work this week if the strike doesn't end. About 200 sheet metal workers also face unemployment and companies with construction ties will start shedding office help as projects and income dry up.

Hawaii's business and government leaders are banking on a robust construction industry to help pace the state's economic growth. The strike probably won't cause much of a hitch if settled soon. Whether that's possible will depend largely on the Teamsters union, which proved tenacious during last year's bus strike.

A news release from the governor's office describes her 10-day trip with seven of her cabinet members as an opportunity to "promote the state's improving economy as well as her administration's success in creating a business-friendly environment."

Among the state's strengths, the release says, are "one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation," and "a booming construction industry." If the strike is still on when Lingle returns, she'll need to give some attention to the industry or booms may become busts.


Civil union issue
awaits calmer times


The Legislature has rejected a proposal to legalize civil unions between gay partners.

THE firestorm set off by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's order that his staff begin performing same-sex marriage ceremonies probably played a role in the rejection of a proposal to allow civil unions of homosexual couples in Hawaii. A modest bill that would bar housing discrimination in Hawaii on the basis of sexual orientation should not become a victim of collateral damage from the backlash.

The marriage of nearly 3,000 gay and lesbian couples in San Francisco last week prompted President Bush to suggest that he might support a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to a man and a woman. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who is gay, worried that "San Francisco being in sort of a free-for-all will be used against us politically."

The controversy in California is expected to continue until lawsuits by city officials challenging that state's law against same-sex marriages and suits by two groups seeking to halt the marriages are decided in court. California law prohibits same-sex marriages, but its constitution does not contain an explicit ban. A proposition approved by voters four years ago states that same-sex marriages granted in other states not be honored in California, only those "between a man and a woman."

Numerous states took similar action in fear that Hawaii would legalize same-sex marriages because of a state Supreme Court ruling. Hawaii voters then approved a constitutional amendment in 1998 that validated the Legislature's earlier action restricting marriages to those between a man and woman. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has revived the issue by ruling that same-sex couples have a legal right to marry.

The Hawaii Legislature enacted a law in 1997 recognizing "reciprocal beneficiaries," assuring gay partners certain rights such as family and bereavement leaves, probate rights and hospital visitation. A state law also makes it "public policy" to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, public accommodation, housing and union practices.

However, the "public policy" law is ineffective; such discrimination is actually banned only in employment. A bill before the current legislative session would extend protection against sexual-orientation bias to housing. That should not be controversial and ought to be enacted.



Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

David Black, Dan Case, Larry Johnson,
Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke, Colbert
Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe,
Frank Teskey, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor, 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor, 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748;

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin (USPS 249460) is published daily by
Oahu Publications at 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.
Periodicals postage paid at Honolulu, Hawaii. Postmaster: Send address changes to
Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

E-mail to Editorial Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --