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HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira responds to Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial

March 07, 2011

A letter from Randy Perreira was sent today to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser regarding their March 1 editorial “Concessions, not catastrophe.” The text from the letter appears below.

March 7, 2011
 
Dear Editor:
 
After a lengthy and detailed interview with your editorial page writer and reporter, where current state budget issues and national labor issues (Wisconsin events in particular) were discussed, I was baffled and disappointed to read your editorial ("Concessions, not catastrophe," March 1, 2011), which was rife with inaccuracies and sensationalism.
 
The conclusions that you draw in your editorial are not only baseless, but they make me wonder whether you truly have an understanding of the situation in Wisconsin and the issues at hand. It’s far-fetched for you to say that if public employees don’t continue to make “significant” concessions, Hawaii would face a similar fate with heated confrontations and unrest. That’s absurd.
 
You flippantly say that retirees should give up at least some of the “overly generous reimbursement,” but how can you say that when it was a previous state administration’s decision to force the retirees to enroll in Medicare after attaining the age of 65 to remove them from the state’s health fund in order to keep costs down for the employer? And let us not forget that upon hire, these employees chose to work for state government at lower pay than their private-sector counterparts, under the promise that if they worked long enough, they would receive a certain level of benefits. All of this was explained in a recent Star-Advertiser news story on Feb. 12, 2011. Further, you incorrectly assumed that Medicare Part B coverage is “unheard of in the private sector,” when in fact, some private businesses do provide this benefit for their employees.
 
While I said that state budget should not be disproportionately put onto the backs of public employees, you jumped to the incorrect conclusion that I was suggesting tax increases. I’m confident that upon listening to the tape of my interview with your editorial writer Dave Koga, you will find that I clearly stated that Hawaii’s tax code as a whole should be looked at, and that a GET increase in and of itself is not a best approach to increase state revenue. You had taken my comment out of context and slipped in your own assumption of what that statement meant — which was false.
 
Finally, your statement “Hawaii’s public labor unions can do their part by agreeing to real concessions” is truly upsetting. It is insulting for you to completely disregard what the public employees have “contributed” over the last 21 months – many enduring a nearly 10 percent pay cut and paying more than 50 percent of their health insurance premiums. If you don’t think these are “real” concessions, it frightens me to think what you would consider those to be.
 
I think your value to your readers and our community is to provide thought-provoking views – not to cause unnecessary alarm as this editorial did.
 
Randy Perreira
Executive Director
HGEA/AFSCME Local 152

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