Working Families Matter! The theme and purpose behind Lobby Day 2016 inspired over 150 members to participate in representing public workers across the Aloha State. Members and Staff united under a common cause, stressing the importance of working families’ rights with Hawaii State Government Officials at the Legislature. Various activities throughout the day allowed members to discuss and learn more about issues affecting their lives and ask questions of legislative leaders, directly.
The day began early for those flying in from neighbor islands who were transported from the airport to the capitol, where they met up with their brothers and sisters from Oahu.
Emotions ran high with, as part of the morning program, six affected members from the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) Maui Region sharing, with the membership at-large in the auditorium, their heartfelt stories of being subjected to a Reduction in Force. The audience was captivated, with a first-hand experience of how legislation (in this case, HB 1073/Act 103) can have a devastating effect on the lives of working families. Tears of sympathy streaming down their faces, UPW brothers and sisters sitting in the audience were visibly distressed by the personal stories of preparing for challenges, having overcome so many, already.
The angst expressed with their brothers and sisters in the morning program, was carried within the individual hearts of our union family throughout the rest of the day. The group, recognized in both chambers, attended sessions in the Senate and House after meeting in the auditorium. Communicating the solemn mood of the day, event t-shirts created a symbolic blackout in the gallery as the UPW was called to rise in the Senate.
The t-shirts, reading “WORKING FAMILIES MATTER!” on the front and “G.E.T Up, STAND Up!” on the back, were to send a message to politicians (especially in the Maui delegation) that an increase in the General Excise Tax (G.E.T.) to support government services could have prevented layoffs now impacting more than 500 members within the HHSC Maui Region.
Affected Maui members who met with their legislative delegation in a frank discussion did not hesitate to relay that message. The talk got heated as Maui members demanded answers of their delegation. Shaunadean Gomes told lawmakers, “You guys are getting too comfortable in your seats!”—exclaiming, “My dream was to retire from the State…and you stripped that away from me!” She said she loves serving her community, and shared her frustration with the prospect of being laid off after the Kaiser takeover. She has worked at Maui Memorial Medical Center for more than 30 years, stating she began working there at just 14 years old.
Maui members asked their delegation why they had not conducted audits of the Region—having been asked to do so by the Union on more than one occasion. After repeated questioning on the matter, the response from House Speaker Joe Souki was inadequate saying, “IT IS WHAT IT IS.” Molokai Member Tanuli Ah Van walked out of the room abruptly, shaking his head in disapproval of responses to questions by the Maui Delegation. Contributing nothing to the discussions, Senator Roslyn Baker played with her coat buttons. The major supporters of HB 1073 (Act 103), Souki, Baker and Senator Gilbert Agaran vacated the room immediately upon conclusion of the meeting, pausing for a few minutes down the hall for what looked like a quick debriefing.
Members within the other UPW divisions also had a chance to discuss their concerns, not only within their respective division, but also with what was happening in the HHSC Maui Region. The group reconvened in the auditorium, having accomplished the day’s goals of expressing their frustration with politicians.
At the end of the day, members were solidified in the belief that working families matter, and that getting up and standing up for our rights is important to our survival. Symbolizing the Union family in which we are all united, brothers and sisters held hands—in one circle—for the singing of Hawaii Aloha, concluding the day with peace in the strength of the Union Family.
Click to hear the Abbreviated Address of the State Director at the Lobby Day 2016 event. Discussing the challenges in the Maui Region of HHSC, members are urged to tell Lawmakers to address the issues in that region.