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Hawaii's labor scene has been stormy lately. As summer began, negotiations on new contracts with public employee unions had broken down and a general strike seemed likely. The main issue was cost of living adjustments. In July, a strike by the firefighters was narrowly averted and the police staged an illegal walkout. Even now storm clouds linger because agreements have not been reached with the United Public Workers.
The League has worked on public employee collective bargaining through our Schools and Hawaii Wallet studies. We also have a position advocating "sunshine" in the collective bargaining process. Feeling that the current situation merited League attention, the State Board created an ad hoc committee to recommend things the League could and should do in view of the threatened strike.
The committee decided that the League's goal should be to make the public more aware of the collective bargaining process and issues. But first, we had to inform ourselves. We tried to get answers to such questions as: When is binding arbitration not binding? Is COLA the only issue? What do the unions want the public to do? We read HPERB files, did research in the archives, and talked to union leaders on the phone. We also raised, once again, through the newspaper and Viewpoint, the question of the public's role in collective bargaining.
Although the storm seems to have passed over, many questions remained unanswered. We hope to prepare a "Facts and Issues" on collective bargaining in the public sector so that all of us will be better informed in the future. Anyone who would like to help with research and interviews should call Carol Whitesell (261-6114).
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