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Collective Bargaining: the League Takes a Look
Ed Fund - Hawaii
Job - for Pay
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Change? How?

The League Takes a Look:

Collective Bargaining

Stimulated by the National League's publication, WHO REPRESENTS THE PUBLIC IN PUBLIC SECTOR BARGAINING, the State Board at its October 9 meeting decided it would like to open up collective bargaining in Hawaii to sunshine provisions we support in all other areas of government. Two League committees (School and Wallet) have studied collective bargaining, and discovered two major areas of government could be decided at the cloistered bargaining table: government policy and the State's budget priorities.

The California LWV has taken action on sunshine in collective bargaining for teachers. They point out that the public needs a "clear understanding of the real costs of public labor settlements and the possible tradeoffs in terms of reduction of some services and elimination of others."

Our action is based on the National LWV principle that "democratic government depends upon the informed and active participation of its citizens and requires that governmental bodies protect the citizens' right to know by giving adequate notice of proposed actions, holding open meetings and making public records accessible." Our proposed consensus statement is:


We need YOUR input on this position and also your ideas for action. Please read this article carefully* and express your thoughts to the State Board by December 15.



"The real issue in bargaining is the governance issue --who's going to decide what, when, under what conditions, and what controls are there on that decision-making process." (1)

There is a tradition of secrecy in collective bargaining that has been carried over from the private sector to the public sector without much thought and little recognition given to the important differences in the two. That tradition has now been broken by California in education contracts with its new law requiring complete information by both sides on their positions before negotiations start. School boards provide the forum for public input after disclosure of bargaining issues, but before negotiations start. Any new positions while negotiations proceed must be publicized. Florida has a law that the actual bargaining process must be open to public view.

What are some of the differences between public and private collective bargaining that are causing this move to openness instead of secrecy for bargaining in the public sector?


Management's purpose -- make money

Authority -- top management. Unions have no voice in its selection.

Management has economic motive.

Strike effect on public -- some, not all services are vital.

Strike effect on management -- income loss for company; may have future income loss also. Could result in relocation or total shut down.

Paying for the cost -- passed on in prices.

Input -- joint union management decision-making is an expansion of input from unilateral decision-making. (N.B. Consumer is presently striving to gain input into private business decisions.)

Position of minority union -- unlawful for employer to meet with minority union on job-related issues.


Management's purpose -- to provide services not supplied by the private sector.

Authority -- confused between legislative and executive. Union meets officially with the executive and lobbies the legislature. Through the ballot, union members participate in choice of management.

Management has political motive. The politicians will make decisions on what they think will be politically advantageous. Will the public tolerate a strike? Higher taxes? Reduction of services? Or as a voting block how effective will the unions be in the next election?

Strike effect on public -- again some, not all services are vital.

Strike effect on management -- government sometimes in better financial situation due to unpaid wages; public including workers who struck may punish elected officials with political defeat. Government cannot relocate or shut down if costs become too high.

Paying for the cost -- pass on in higher taxes or cut in services.

Input -- the public and representatives don't have the opportunity for input until after the contract has been negotiated. ILWU's George Martin proposes union demands be published so public can indicate whether it is agreeable to them.

Position of minority union -- minority employees have all rights of citizens to lobby; therefore the minority union continues to meet with management on job issues. An effect is public competition between rival unions, e.g. HFT and HSTA.


There are arguments against openness in public sector bargaining. Some cited in the National update are that "under representative government citizens can exercise their rights at the polls if they are dissatisfied with the elected officials' performance in labor relations." This, however, is after a legally binding contract has gone into effect. In other legislation we do not rely on our officials to keep our interest in mind without expressing ourselves through lobbying and testifying.

"Opening up bargaining to the public would encourage grandstanding on the part of both politicians and employees' representatives." On the other hand it might make them more reasonable if they had to reveal all their positions instead of just partial facts that may enhance their case.

"The issues are too complex for the public to understand." But not any more complex than other matters dealt with public such as issues dealt with by juries.

"Both public employers and unions are concerned about shifts in bargaining power when a third element is introduced... the public is apathetic about the issues unless there is an immediate threat of strike or tax increase." Some of this apathy is wearing off, however. Some citizens are beginning to question decision-making that effects public policy in which the community has no role. Although the legislature ratifies completed contracts, basic decisions are usually reached behind closed doors, often by professional negotiators or arbitrators hired by elected officials and the union.


California passed legislation (The Rodda Act) calling for disclosure which requires that the public be given complete information on what is being negotiated by both management and labor, but does not require that the public be given access to the actual bargaining sessions. Florida has a law requiring that bargaining sessions be open to public view. Iowa's legislature is considering a bill which, under provisions of the state's open meeting law, would give public access to negotiating sessions for public employee contracts.

In Hawaii, more than 85% of the state budget is for personnel costs.** For 27,000 employees, the rate of pay is directly determined by collective bargaining. Salaries of 1,300 top level personnel are indirectly determined by union contract, but their salaries are kept higher than the pay of those they supervise. Thus the furor over the pay raise bill during the last legislative session missed the point, the issue here being related to the high cost of government. Where the public input was decidedly lacking was in those collective bargaining negotiations carried on for the public behind closed doors by an appointed negotiator, a representative from the Department of Budget and Finance, and the Director of Personnel Services.

In other negotiations, interested agencies sit in on the bargaining sessions. The only agency whose members are not appointed is the Board of Education; they are elected at large. When counties are involved, there is one representative from each County with the State having 4 votes and each County 1. The team's decision is based on majority vote. After the contract is negotiated, cost items for the State require legislative approval and for the counties, Council approval. Currently the public's only opportunity for input is after the contract has been negotiated, ratified by the bargaining unit, and presented to the legislative body. If one cost item in the contract is turned down by the legislature, the whole contract has to go back for negotiations.

Besides cost items, some policy matters are in contracts in spite of language in the Collective Bargaining Law that is intended to protect management's right to "direct employees... and maintain efficiency of government operations." For example, in the HGEA contract with the educational executive officers there is a clause that last year was interpreted such that the Board of Education had to pass over the person its screening committee had determined the most qualified for a leadership position in the DOE and give the position instead to a "qualified" but not as well qualified person who was already an executive officer. If this clause in the contract had received publicity while it was merely a proposal it seems almost certain some teachers would have spotted it and alerted the public to help them keep open their own options for promotion and to rely on merit in the selection of their superiors. Both at the bargaining table and through lobbying the unions work to increase the scope of negotiations which would increase the policy decisions made by contracts.

The 1972 teachers' strike is somewhat of a milestone in union history locally. The publicity it received added to the difficulties at the bargaining table because some experts felt it heightened the personal tension among the negotiators. But it was really only in the last days of the strike that the ADVERTISER ran what it said was the complete position of both sides. The League, which had met to discuss what we could do only to find all information we had was piecemeal, called both the union and the state negotiators who confirmed that the ADVERTISER article was accurate. The League wrote a letter to the editor announcing that we had made this check for factual accuracy, marking what is perhaps a very small beginning of what a Sunshine Law can do for Hawaii.

In school negotiations, newspapers, the School Board and Advisory Councils exist as means for implementing the Sunshine Law. For the other unions publicity in the newspapers and posting the information as the agendas for open meetings are now posted would be a long step to getting public input into collective bargaining in a more constructive way than waiting until a strike to get involved.

We feel that pressing for sunshine in collective bargaining for employees in the public sector is important because it is a major area of decision making. This issue lies at the very heart of our informed citizenry working for more effective government and this is the basis on which the reputation of the LWV is built.


*Members may also want to reread the National publication sent out with the Summer edition of the LEO NANA. There is also on file with your local League a rather complete examination of our collective bargaining law, "Does Hawaii's Collective Bargaining Law Need Improving?"

(1) Dr. Don Davies to LWV California's Collective Bargaining in Education Conference.

**(Kamaka, YWCA 1974) These personnel costs include salary, retirement plan, health plans, vacations, and sick leave.

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