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Politics // Just Thoughts
Bob Jones

Public Worker Unions Too Greedy

Editor’s note: Soon after Bob Jones filed this column, Hawaii public worker unions, miffed at State House Speaker Calvin Say for not agreeing to raise taxes to fund their benefits, worked with dissidents to remove him and install more pro-union Rep. Joe Souki of Maui.

A non-union cargo airline crewman to another:

“We land in Guam and by the time modules are moved I’ve worked 30 minutes beyond federal regulation time. A union would not allow that.”

The other crewman says: “Hey, you’re paid to do your job. That’s why unions are disappearing.”

Are unions disappearing?

Well, yes, and well, no. No question that union membership is dwindling and no question that right-to-work laws are on the upswing, even in traditional worker states such as Indiana and Michigan.

But unionism is not disappearing. It’s trying to reinvent itself in a new economy.

So far, it’s not been very successful but I’d hope it will be long term.

There are some steep upslopes to be conquered.

One is right-to-work. You see many states moving that way.

It’s a very American thing. You should not be forced to join a union in order to have a job at a unionized shop.

You’d probably be a pariah, but that’s your right. You’d probably have to pay dues because joining a unionized workplace is like joining a club with dues.

The Democratic Party largely supports “card check,” the system whereby the workplace would not have a secret election for union affiliation – just workers signing off on a petition form.

That’s silly and wrong. Your pro-union foreman comes to you and says “Frank, here, you want to sign up for the union, yeah?”

Frank is supposed to say “Hell no!”?

Not reasonable. If Democrats Dan Inouye, Colleen Hanbusa and Mazie Hirono had less just-say-yes party affiliation, they’d knock that one down.

Unions are good, some better than others. We allow employers in Hawaii to count bar-and-restaurant tips toward the minimum wage. In Vancouver, service people get $10 an hour and all their tips.

Unions sometimes kill jobs in the name of better pay. Recent examples are at United Airlines and in the automobile industry. A bakers’ union also killed about 18,000 jobs at the Hostess Bakery by refusing a bankruptcy reorganization that would have saved the company but cut back worker benefits. Now there are no benefits and no jobs.

The worst of the unions these days are in the public employee sector. We’re all in tough times and public employees are not being paid sub-standard wages or benefits. But they demand more, even when more is not there. And they have exceptional clout. They can shut down public services.

We start to feel like hostages.

It’s not right. Franklin D. Roosevelt championed factory unionism but specifically said that should not be extended to the public employee sector.

Unions are not dying, but they are wounding themselves. That’s especially true here with HGEA, UPW and HSTA.

They are losing public support bit by bit. Especially HSTA.

Well, let me qualify that. We have an unusual quotient of public worker union members in Hawaii. They are the public, too.

We’re not happy paying so much for vacations and medical benefits. So – they should not be happy, too!

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