Hair-raising. Insane. Not acceptable.

Words used to describe the latest version of Trumpcare pending before the U.S. Senate, perhaps?

Actually, those are the words opponents are using to describe legislation sitting on Gov. David Ige’s desk that could radically alter what can and cannot be negotiated between governments and six public sector unions.

It would open to negotiation, Civil Beat has reported, exactly how employers manage their employees, including their hiring and firing, promotion and demotion, discipline and training.

Senate Bill 410 would greatly strengthen the hand of labor.

“It’s throwing the keys to government away,” said Richard Thomason, the director of collective bargaining and labor relations for the University of Hawaii. “Why it passed the Legislature is anybody’s guess.”

Fortunately, the governor has included SB 410 in his intent-to-veto list. We urge him to follow through on that intent.

“This bill directly impacts the ability of state departments to effectively manage its workforce by negating management rights to direct its workforce and requiring union consent on such matters as assignment, transfer and discipline,” the governor’s office explained in announcing the intent-to-veto list.

While the bill calls for altering just a few words in the state’s collective bargaining law, big winners of that change would be the Hawaii Government Employees Association, United Public Workers, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers and the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association.

Clearly, Hawaii is already respecting and taking care of its public sector unions, sometimes too uncritically.

Not surprisingly, the unions raved about SB 410 as it made its way through the Legislature. The HSTA, for example, described the bill as a clarification of “the obligation of the state to engage in negotiations in a fair and respectable manner.”

Invariably happy to please the unions, legislators unanimously passed the measure. Its chief author, state Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran, characterized some of the government’s concerns as “somewhat laughable.”

But conducting major surgery on a collective bargaining law that has served the islands and its tens of thousands of public employees for nearly 50 years is not funny.

That’s why opponents of SB 410 include James Nishimoto, director of the Hawaii Department of Human Resources and the person who led recent collective bargaining talks that have resulted in significant pay increases for some of those very same unions — HGEA, the HSTA and the HFFA.

Nationwide, union membership has been on the decline for decades. In 2016, union members accounted for 10.7 percent of employed wage and salary workers.

That drop has been felt locally. In 1989, at its peak, union membership statewide averaged about 30 percent.

But Hawaii remains a top state for labor, with roughly one in five wage and salary workers belonging to a union, either in the public or private sector. It’s due in large part to close ties between unions and the Democratic Party that controls government, an intimate history that dates to long before statehood.

In addition to settling the contracts for almost all of the 14 public sector bargaining units well before Friday’s deadline — UHPA ratified its contract last week, leaving just SHOPO and two HGEA units still to be worked out — the Legislature this year also budgeted about $73 million for operations of the Maui Health System, funds for employee separation benefits and capital improvement projects.

It’s part of the agreement reached last year between the state and three state-run hospitals — Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Clinic and Lanai Community Hospital — to have Kaiser Permanente assume operations of all three. It has been a complicated and difficult transfer involving the jobs of a lot of unionized workers, but it’s set to go into effect Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Legislature and the Ige administration continue to steadily pay down the multi-billion-dollar unfunded liability for health benefits and pensions of active and retired state and county workers.

Clearly, Hawaii is already respecting and taking care of its public sector unions, sometimes too uncritically.

Keep that veto pen handy, governor.

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