This bad news has serious implications for most unions, putting them in a position of hard choices. On one hand, union leaders need to look after members’ welfare but on the other hand, they have to face some harsh realities. The truth of the matter is that state government coffers are facing a “fiscal emergency” as what Gov. Linda Lingle said and everyone must put their share of carrying the burden equally to keep things afloat. The government of Hawai’i had laid off some 900 to 1,100 government workers earlier in November and more lay-offs might be forthcoming, she had warned. In the end, everybody got what they wanted out of the deal which shows everyone concerned was willing to compromise and sacrifice.
The current recession had highlighted the need for some concessions from the union, in particular work rules concerning compensation. State workers had overwhelmingly approved to take 42 furlough days, to be distributed into 18 days this fiscal year, 12 next year and another 12 for year 2011 (Sample in “Hawaii’s largest…”). Union leaders had to face the reality of the situation and taking furlough is better than private-sector employees who took a pay cut and are working still the same hours for less pay as what Paul Brewbaker said.
In another article on the same issue regarding union acceptance of the new contract, the Honolulu Advertiser mentioned that six of the seven bargaining units of Hawaii’s biggest public-sector union had ratified the new contract. Some 60% to 95% of the members had voted in support of the furlough days, roughly the equivalent to an 8% pay cut. For some of the union members, this concession may represent or symbolize the futility of being members. This is because the union had failed to protect their compensation benefits by eventually agreeing to furloughs although this is also dictated by the harsh reality of budget shortfalls.