Unions, Wages And Eagle Scouts

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - May 05, 2005
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Remember last fall’s HGEA demagogic (“demagogue: a person who tries to stir up the people by appeals to emotion, prejudice, etc. in order to win them over quickly and so gain power.”) campaign flyer depicting Gov. Linda Lingle as a Halloween witch gleefully stirring a cauldron of “vetos,” and urging HGEAers to support only Democrat candidates lest she be able to “kill any bill benefiting your salary, retirement and health benefits; Lingle wins, you lose!”Well, the HGEA has been paid off — in spades!

The Democrat-dominated Legislature reinstituted and now considers permanent “binding arbitration” in wage and benefit negotiations with the three major unions, Hawaii Government Workers Association (HGEA), Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) and United Public Workers union (UPW).

Binding arbitration — when applied to other than “essential” workers — makes a mockery out of wage and benefit negotiations. Union bosses only need to demand twice what they really want and the arbitrator, in the interest of “fairness,” cuts it in half. This may be an oversimplification, but the picture is clear. And the arbitrator — who as often as not comes from a union background — is not bound to consider the numbers in the context of the CPI, inflation, wages of commensurate workers in other sectors, or the employer’s ability to pay without impacting other basic needs.

Like most, I support a fair wage and benefits for all of our government employees. And they deserve our appreciation for their dedication to sometimes tedious work in a bureaucratic environment. But so long as we tolerate union leadership and legislative leadership in the same bed,we will continue to suffer under the tyranny of “binding arbitration.”  I’ve written about the potential advantages of raising the minimum age for unrestricted drivers licenses from 16 to 17 or even 18. This was based upon recent research that explains — in great part — the reason why accident rates are the highest among the youngest licensed drivers, ie: slower development of that part of the young brain that deals with the relationship between actions and consequences. This is why young drivers too often act impetuously without connecting their actions to likely outcomes. In fact, this ability doesn’t reach its optimum level until age 25 and, significantly, it isn’t accelerated with experience or training.

Now it seems there is a shortage of applicants for jobs as bus drivers in the tour industry. In reaction to lobbying by the trucking and transportation industry, the Legislature has passed a bill to lower the licensing age to drive buses and commercial vehicles down from 21 to 18, thus expanding the pool of applicants. It appears to have been lost upon the Legislature that the safety criteria used to establish the minimum age of 21 doesn’t change because of a driver shortage. The governor would be well-advised to not sign the bill and, in fact, is being so advised by her Department of Transportation folks. We’ll see.  On April 27 the 52nd annual Eagle Scout Recognition Dinner was held at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The elegant event honored 60 of the more than 200 new Eagle Scouts from the Aloha Council’s “class” of 2004.

And “classy” they were. The Eagle Scout badge represents the highest achievement as a Boy Scout, indicating distinguished leadership and service to others. “Eagle Scout” on a resume or application states clearly, “Here is a person of character; dependable and loyal.”

Also honored were the council’s past “Distinguished Eagle Scouts,” Eagle recipients who, after 25 years, have distinguished themselves in their work and in the community as a volunteer. Many wellknown business and military leaders were among them. It was impressive to see the accomplishments of the “old” Eagles, and it bodes well for our community to see the new Eagles ready to take the baton.

On a final personal note, one of my greatest regrets — with the possible exception of zigging when I should have zagged over North Vietnam — was leaving scouting only one rank below Eagle. But that night I was proud to stand with the young and the old to recite together the Boy Scout Oath: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physical strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

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