Letters for Thursday, August 11, 2011

Small business and libertyLGBT

folks benefit from unions

Small business and liberty

When Moses led the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt, he wrote down guidelines for a new nation where almost every family would own a piece of land. There was even a year of Jubilee where, every 49 years, the land that had been sold would be returned to the original family.

I believe that this plan expressed God’s desire that as many people as possible enjoy economic liberty. The Promised Land was to be a place where most people had their own small business. There were no big corporations. There was no big government collecting taxes. Voluntary giving to the needy was required by God, but there was no big socialistic government involved.

Through the influence of the Pilgrims and others, early America in the north and the west developed many of these kinds of idyllic communities with small businesses and small government.

Today, we live in a very different world of huge governments and huge corporations. The huge power that they enjoy comes at the expense of the liberties of the average person. Both political parties have supported both of these monsters.

It seems clear that big governments and big corporations actually go hand in hand. Big corporations like big governments because they can pass all kinds of regulations and a tax system that makes it very difficult for a small business to compete. Big governments like big corporations because they promote a lifestyle of materialism that makes it easier to collect huge amounts of taxes.

Hawaii has a history of few economic liberties for the average person. Before Captain Cook landed, the Alii owned almost everything and the common Hawaiians were not much more than slaves. After that, the whaling industry, sandalwood era, sugar plantations, and the big hotels of tourism were various types of big business, where the average guy is little more than a servant.

I am not asking for a revolution, but for a new way of thinking and small but steady steps to be taken in the right direction. For example, buy an electric car and purchase photovoltaic cells for your roof or garage. From now on, you can get your fuel free from the sun. The big oil companies have one less customer. The big government doesn’t get to tax your gasoline purchases or tax the high income that you need to earn in order to afford to buy gasoline.

Be alert to when a state or federal government (either party) tries to pass another regulation that protects the big corporations by making it harder or impossible to do a certain kind of business on a small scale.

Plant a garden. Buy more from local farmers, ranchers, and other small businesses. Some of us can look for opportunities to start our own small businesses. For example, the best way is to bake with whole wheat flour is to grind the wheat the same day that the bread or cookies are made. There are small bakeries on the mainland that do this. If there were one nearby, I would buy my bread and cookies from it. There are so many opportunities for local businesses to provide superior products.

The small business model offers the most economic liberty for the most people. It also will promote sustainability and a greater sense of relationship and community, as we depend on one another for our needs to be met, instead of depending on huge governments and huge corporations.

Mark Beeksma, Koloa

LGBT folks benefit from unions

Recent studies by UCLA Law School’s Williams Institute and the National Center for Transgender Equality report what many of us already suspected, witnessed or even experienced: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face widespread discrimination at work. 

In fact, more than one in three openly lesbian, gay and bisexual workers, and more than three out of four transgender workers, reported facing discrimination or harassment at work. 

Americans have come a long way in becoming more tolerant or even accepting of openly LGBT people, but sadly, discrimination persists, especially in the workplace.

Hawai‘i is one of only 15 U.S. states that bars discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in the workplace (six others only protect on the basis of sexual orientation, and several counties and cities, along with Washington, D.C., provide legal protections as well). 

This means that, in more than half of the U.S., a worker — no matter how capably they perform their work or how important their job is to their and their family’s health and well-being — can be fired simply for being (or being suspected of being) gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Of course, even in places like Hawai‘i where such discrimination is illegal, it can take years for a case to get acted on. But, for LGBT folks working under union contracts that include anti-discrimination language, it doesn’t matter where you live or work: your union has the tools (and the obligation) to protect you. 

The fact is, LGBT people, like other groups that face persistent workplace discrimination (including women, people of color, and immigrants), have the most to gain from a strong, diverse labor movement (and the most to lose when collective bargaining rights are attacked and unions weakened).

Steve Dinnion, Honolulu

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