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Gov. Lingle Continues to Treat her Employees as the Enemy and Vows to Appeal Court Decision Finding her Furlough Plan Illegal

I recently heard a remark that in these times of economic crisis, CEO’s must focus on engaging their employees in seeking ways to survive and prosper. It was suggested the “C” in CEO should stand for “Creative” and that a unifying approach by the top executive is critical to establish this top to bottom partnership. Those remarks sharpened my anger towards our state’s top executive, Governor Lingle. Rather than engaging her employees in a cooperative quest to best survive this economic downturn, she has done just the opposite. She has with intent and deliberation made her state employees the perceived scapegoat, the enemy.

Early this year, in testimony before the Legislature her administration began laying the foundation for this adversarial approach and carefully avoided proposing any other means to secure the substantial revenue shortfall. Right from the get-go her goal of gutting the government employee unions was evident. As I sat and listened to her administration testify before the Senate committee, there was no doubt in my mind that her first priority was to squash the employee unions – and therefore she would not suggest even one revenue increasing measure (to decrease the amount of concessions she would need to ask of the unions).

Yet whose job was it to guard against a financial disaster? it was her job! But where was she when the economic waters were becoming perilously choppy? She was off campaigning with Sarah Palin and some US Senate candidates, grandstanding her personal agenda. Then early in the year when these union contracts should have been being hammered out, instead she unilaterally held off those discussions so the legislature would be gone before the contracts were resolved. Only one choice would then be available: furlough or fire. [And keep in mind that neither of these options is consistent with moving towards economic stability. Firing employees makes no fiscal sense because the state self-insures for unemployment benefits and along with all of the other direct and indirect costs of firing employees would save the state next to nothing. And with regard to furloughs, as the national economic advisors have repeatedly stated, we need more productivity, not less -- so furloughs should be avoided.]

So do you think at this point given the continued dire economic forecast, Governor Lingle might reassess and maybe get down and dirty with her workers (her “team”) and put all her energy into achieving a union settlement combined with some brainstorming about ways to bring in more income (especially now that the unions have offered a 5% wage cut ))? No, clearly her personal agenda will prevail. [MW CORRECTION --- NOTE I CORRECTED THE PERCENTAGE WAGE CUT THAT WAS OFFERED BY THE UNIONS; I BELIEVE THE UNIONS HAVE OFFERED A 5% WAGE CUT, NOT 7% WAGE CUT. CORRECT ME IF I AM WRONG]

So where do we find Governor Lingle as of July 29th, now that Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto has issued his final ruling --finding her furlough plan would be in violation of the state constitution and the union contracts? If you guessed she is continuing to treat the unions as her enemy you were right. There she is hunkered down with her favorite gladiator, Attorney General Mark Bennett, crafting an appeal to Judge Sakamoto’s decision. And though I am no expert in this area of law, it sure looks like this appeal will be a certain loser. This is the same stubborn pattern we saw when she insisted on circumventing the law for the superferry and thought she could convince the Courts to support her weak legal arguments. Think about it: under the union contracts, the core subject that must be negotiated is wages. So would you want to be the attorney arguing to the Hawaii Supreme Court that “furloughs” is a separate issue from “wages”? Sure doesn’t sound like a winning argument to me.

A sad state of affairs! See my April 8th blog on this subject for background info...here.


Aloha MW, with all respect,

Governor Lingle does not treat state workers as enemies. I can not accept that argument.

The Governor gave the unions a choice to help the state budget crisis by offering a choice.

Layoffs or a reduction of hours.

Reduction on hours would have kept workers on the State Health care insurances.
Reduction on hours would have reduced pay, so budget accordingly.
Either way, they, the state workers, would still have a job.

Layoff: The state worker gets nothing. Nothing!

There was a Win Win solution.

The Unions, the State Legislator, and the courts: Chose to loose.

Now, we All Loose!

Just saying,...


Kini: you are correct that as between being fired and furloughed, certainly the better choice is a furlough. But my point is that there were, and are many other ways, to bridge the budget gap. From my view point, Lingle did her darnedest to avoid proposing any new revenue initiatives. Hence this left us the public berating the state workers for not jumping at the opportunity to lose some 36 or more work days per year rather than watching some percentage of employees permanently lose their jobs.

I attended several of the key state budget hearings, and spent all of my time rattling off suggestions about how to raise more income so that job furloughs would not the option of choice. I can assure you, the Lingle administration seemed intent on NOT looking for alternative solutions to the furlough option.