Democrats and Public Worker Unions

Long-time political reporter Mickey Kaus is making a run for the U.S. Senate that is worth looking at. This is not an endorsement, and, in any case, he’s running in California, not Hawaii.

But I send readers to his site because Kaus’s thoughts on public worker unions have special relevance here in Hawaii. Kaus is the rare Democrat willing to question the close tie between these unions and the Democrats they uniformly help to elect—politicians who then serve public worker union special interests first, and the general public’s needs second. This is a chronic problem in Hawaii, and since criticism of this cozy arrangement typically comes from the political right, the near monopoly party in charge of Hawaii feels entitled to discount the critiques because of their source.

Kaus is especially discouraged by the relationship between teacher unions and politicians, which results in shielding teachers, as government employees, from scrutiny that would truly put the needs of students first. Again, a chronic problem in Hawaii, as we’ve often discussed at Honolulu Magazine, including in our current issue.

For example, Kaus chides the California teachers union for opposing a bill that would have given unionized government teachers a raise, solely because the bill also gave money to charter schools. Charter schools are true public schools, too, but nationwide, and in Hawaii, they are treated as competitors by the establishment public school systems.

His site is worth reading if you’re one of those people who think there are no criticisms of public worker unions that can be made from the left. In fact, as we’ve often pointed out, the Hawaii DOE’s biggest failure is its inability to deliver on its own progressive promises—to deliver, for example, public schools to poor neighborhoods are just as good as those in wealthy neighborhoods. Our schools chart in the May issue makes this disparity clear. Find it on newsstands now, or watch this website for a searchable version. We’ve never asked the DOE anything it didn’t promise to do for the public in the first place.