Letters for Feb. 7, 2015

• Citizens United decision must be reversed, erodes democracy • Strikers struggle against inequality

Citizens United decision must be reversed, erodes democracy

Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decreed, in a decision that came to be known as Citizens United, that corporations were people and could participate in elections by contributing money to support the campaigns of candidates. Can you believe it? Our very own Supreme Court wrested the electoral process from the hands of ordinary citizens and sold it to mega companies. Never before in our history has money and power been so publicly linked. Here is a quote from Forbes magazine:

“The CEOs of America’s 500 biggest companies got a collective pay raise of 16 percent last year earning a total compensation of $5.2 billion. That’s an average of $10.5 million apiece. Exercised stock options and vested stock awards account for 60 percent of total pay for this group of 500 firms. Those components of compensation are the reason these CEOs are on the list of highest-paid.”

On the other side of the country, wages for workers have failed to keep up with rising costs and taxes and while the middle class disappears, hard-working people struggle to make ends meet. Across Hawaii, small businesses fail and the average citizen suffers because the politicians, who are supported by corporate election donations, must attend to the the sources of their campaign contributions. Public confidence that our government is responding to the will of the people has become rare and those heroes in politics who attempt to buck the system are dispatched by vehement character assassination and negative, misleading advertising to assure that they do not get elected or re-elected. Clearly, as a democratic society, we are in serious trouble.

Many things must be done to heal the election system, but none is as important as a national citizens’ effort to pass a constitutional amendment to reverse the so-called Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court. Soon, a resolution will be introduced to the County Council to support that effort. What can you do?

1) Become informed about the issue.

2) Encourage your councilmembers to vote yes to support the new constitutional amendment and

3) Call our federal representatives, including Tulsi Gabbard, Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono. Ask them to help put an end to arguably the most unconscionable and destructive action ever taken by the high court. Encourage them to get behind the effort to create a new amendment.

David Dinner


Strikers struggle against inequality

Although Kauai doesn’t have any Kaiser medical facilities, the Local 5 strikers have got it right. They’re not only fighting for wage parity with Kaiser’s Mainland workers (Hawaii having the highest cost of living in the U.S.), guaranteed pensions for all blue-collar staff regardless of when hired or seniority, but for the general community as well.

Kaiser’s $3.1 billion in profits the last nine months have come largely through mass layoffs, hospital and clinic understaffing moves and the closing of urgent care clinics like the Kaiser Honolulu Clinic. This closure has affected many seniors. With this planned six-day strike to end on Saturday, Local 5 members have even urged patients to keep their appointments.

According to frontline workers like Shanelle Simpliciano and Gerald Penaflor, Kaiser’s cutback measures have compromised patient care and put tremendous stress on its nurse aides, LPNs, lab techs, custodial and clerical staff. As a former certified nurse aide, I have firsthand knowledge of how a large physical workload can ruin one’s back, neck and legs, not to mention the mental stress in trying to do the best you can for your patients.

The members of Local 5 have made every attempt to settle with Kaiser, working without a contract for over two years. To make matters worse, Kaiser has brought in professional strikebreakers from the Mainland to break the strikers’ will.

The Kaiser strikers struggle against income inequality and for better patient care is a fight that benefits everyone in the community.

Raymond Catania



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