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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009

UPW overreaches with its bid for gag order

What part of the middle word in its own name does the HawaiÁi division of United Public Workers not understand?

It is a union of public workers, paid with tax funds that the public has an interest in tracking.
And yet the officials of UPW here want to clamp down unreasonably on what the public hears about its negotiations with the state and county administrations over a new contract.
On Wednesday, Local 646 filed a prohibited practices complaint with the HawaiÁi Labor Relations Board, citing public statements and press releases issued by Gov. Linda Lingle, Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Marie Laderta, the director of the state Department of Human Resources Development.
The complaint allegations include charges that these statements violated established ground rules to bar the release of the content of negotiations.
While there may be some aspects of the talks that need to remain confidential, whatís being discussed publicly certainly doesnít qualify.
Lingle has said furloughs are aimed at avoiding layoffs, maintaining that furloughs lie within her powers; her statements were amplified by Laderta.
Unions insist that furloughs are a bargaining point, and a court hearing has been set for July 2 to settle the issue.
But the union must realize that the state is in a fiscal crisis, and the public right to know how the governor intends to balance the budget is paramount.
UPW even objects to the mayorís mere statement that the counties will, for the first time, negotiate contracts separately from the state. Thatís ludicrous: The public deserves to be informed about how city contracts will be settled, using its money.
The new fiscal year begins July 1. With this deadline looming, the governorís budget plan has already been complicated by court challenges.
Adding another challenge, this time to keep public information secret, is extreme, counterproductive and works against public interest.