Unions in Hawaii unsurprised by ruling in Supreme Court case
The U.S. Supreme Court decision that government workers cannot be required to contribute to labor unions came as no surprise to the state’s largest union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association.
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Honolulu >> The U.S. Supreme Court decision that government workers cannot be required to contribute to labor unions came as no surprise to the state’s largest union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association.
Randy Perreira, executive director of the 42,000- member HGEA, said, “You can now add workers to the list of groups like immigrants, women and people of color that are seeing their rights diminished by this activist, conservative court.”
The Janus decision means government workers who refuse to join the union will enjoy for free the wages and benefits that HGEA negotiates for its members, and also benefit from union representation in workplace disputes, he said.
“It creates what in the jargon is called ‘free riders,’ where people would be able to say, ‘I no longer want to pay for the service, but I expect to get it,’” he said.
Only about 4 percent of the workers covered by HGEA contracts refuse to join the union, although some of those government employees may be new and haven’t been approached by the union, Perreira said. For those who refuse to join the union, HGEA as of Wednesday can no longer collect the union “service fee” that was rejected by the court, he said.
Perreira said he does not know how much that will cost the union, but said HGEA has been making cuts in its $18 million budget in anticipation of the court decision.
The state Legislature and Gov. David Ige this year also approved a new law at the request of the public worker unions establishing a one-month period each year when public workers can opt out of paying the union fees.
Perreira said the decision is “all about politics” and trying to limit the public sector unions’ political activism, he said.
“This ruling is what it is, but it’s not going to stop us,” he said. “We’re going to continue to be advocates for the people we represent, and hope and trust that people see the value in the union and continue to be members.”
Ige issued a written statement Wednesday that he is disappointed with the decision, but “fortunately, Hawaii’s Constitution affords strong protections for workers compared to other states. I hope Hawaii’s workers see the value of union representation and continue to voluntarily support the work of the unions.”
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hana-
busa, who is opposing Ige in the Democratic primary for governor this year, said in a statement that “as a labor attorney and a firm believer in the balance of collective bargaining, I know that government’s greatest asset is its employees.
“The most effective and efficient way to manage that asset is through collective bargaining and union representation. Our hard working families and government benefit from that. We must focus on negotiating in good faith to ensure that we are managing our resources and providing protections and a living wage for our