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‘March Madness’ spreads to Hawai’i government – editorial

March 9, 2011
HSTA-R Hawai’i District President, Big Dog


By Wayne “Big Dog” Joseph

If you’re a fan of college basketball you would know that this time of year is called “March Madness” a time when the top hoops teams position themselves for tournament play.

But the “March Madness” isn’t confined to the hardwood as political officials in Wisconsin and Ohio, have gone insane and are now accusing unions for the problem of severe fiscal deficits.

The truth is that the real culprits in these difficult financial times came from Wall Street and bankers who made some bad loans.  As a result we are all paying for the deficits seen around the county.

The “Madness” hasn’t escaped Hawai’i as our new governmental leadership has looked to balance the budget by taking from our retirees.

Recently our Lt. Governor made an appearance at the State office of HSTA (Gov. Abercrombie had an inner ear infection and wasn’t able to attend) to speak to our retirees on what they call “shared sacrifice.”

The term “shared sacrifice” in itself reflects poorly on the governor’s administration as they attempt to demean our retired teachers who have spent three to four generations giving to public service and doing without. 

The Governor’s office proposed to balance part of the budget by taxing pensioners and by eliminating the reimbursement on our Part B Medicare program, along with reducing some other entitlements.

HSTA-R did not take these potential reductions lightly and your union dues went to good use in a unified effort to lobby the legislature and object to the proposals brought by the State Administration.

The Big Island District lobbied most of the senate and house representatives, stating loud and clearly our objections to these proposed cuts in our benefits.

Lobbying efforts were spearheaded by Steve Ono, along with Cynthia “Niyati” Sallee-Brown, Jo Ann Iwane, Lorraine Hora, and me in a day long effort to minimize or eliminate all together the potential detriment to our pension benefits.

I am happy to say that the “March Madness” has been dispersed and sanity has regained itself within our government.  But we must remain diligent in our efforts to oppose any effort to erode future retirement benefits.

At my suggestion the ILWU recently called a meeting with all retiree unions to discuss how to plan in a joint effort to maintain our rightful benefits.

The ILWU, under Richard Baker, invited representatives from all the retiree unions for a morning of dialogue.

“We need to let our voices be heard,” Baker said.  “An injury to one is an injury to all, is the slogan of the ILWU.”

HSTA-R members Joe Tanaka, Steve Ono, and Sallee-Brown were on hand, as was HSTA’s Rae Yamanaka to hear the different voices of the more than 50 retirees in attendance.

Even though the state has proposed to raise the limits on taxing pensioners income the ILWU will oppose any taxation on retiree income stating that, “This is a method of divide and conquer, first they tax the higher income retirees, then later they’ll come back to tax the others,” Baker said.

Joe Tanaka may have stated it best when he asked the group, “What is the strongest force on Earth?  It’s people working together.”

May we all be unified in our efforts to protect the pensions of those now retired and those who have yet to retire.

(This editorial reflects your president’s voice only, and is not in any way meant to serve as a position on the HSTA-R organization).

Thank you for allowing me to serve.

One Comment leave one →
  1. J.N permalink
    March 9, 2011 6:14 pm

    Shared sacrifice..should be continuing sacrifice!
    Thanks for your always great information.
    Thanks for standing up and protecting what we retirees
    have come to depend on and were promised for our continual sacrifices.
    Thanks to all of you who spend your own time lobbying for our benefits

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