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Taking Union Issues Case By Case

Labor Department

Labor Department chart of union membership by states. Graphic from Bob Jones

If you’re liberal in your political outlook, you’re supposed to be fairly knee-jerk about unions. Unions are generally good; employers are generally bad unless government and unions make them be good.

I’m a social liberal who is not knee-jerk about unions. I consider them on a case-by-case basis. There’s obviously a reason why a couple dozen states have chosen right-to-work laws rather than Hawaii’s where you must join a unionized workplace or at least pay dues to the union.

I could say that join-orpay system is OK because a non-joiner/nonpayer gets all the benefits the union negotiates for the joiners/payers.

But what if somebody is an authentic conscientious objector to joining or paying? Can’t he work?

I’m totally opposed to the system, which Hawaii lawmakers support, that allows unionization through card check.

That’s where a union organizer goes around to workers with a kind of petition and, if enough sign, the place is unionized. No election.

Two reasons that’s bad. One is face-to-face intimidation. “Hey, Joe, you want to sign up for the union, don’t you?” The other is scrapping the American tradition of the secret ballot. Why would you bypass that?

Unionists claim the ballot system allows employers too much time to persuade employees not to join, or to intimidate them. OK, then I guess our other election systems allow candidates and parties too much time to woo voters through campaign ads or intimidate them by saying some candidate will cost Americans jobs.

On the government level, unions tend to have only their members’ interests in mind rather than the interests of the general population. In Hawaii, that’s meant that, with arbitration, the main issue is whether government has money to pay wage or benefit demands, not whether there are people services that deserve that money more than the government worker. That’s why I support the strike rather than arbitration as a finality.

I am not anti-union. I come from a union family. I belonged to both a local newspaper union and a national television union. I’m just not knee-jerk.

When the Newspaper Guild struck the Honolulu Advertiser when I arrived at the paper in 1963, I refused to picket and therefore did not draw benefits.

Why? Because the issue was sick days off, triggered by a copy boy who constantly called in sick and wanted paydays. It was abuse. The union was supporting the abuse.

I did not support a reporters’ union at KGMB because they were able-to-negotiate stars. I did support the union for camera operators, engineers and clericals who had less bargaining power.

I’m just not knee-jerk. Case by case.

Mr. Mayor: The cops cleared out those youthful bums fronting Pacific Beach Hotel. Mahalo.

Now how about those sidewalk tents across from the Honolulu Museum of Art at Thomas Square?