Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa is an anti-union Democrat running for U.S. Senate in Hawai`i – one of the nation’s strongest labor states.
She’s advanced in politics thanks to generous corporate funders (especially the defense industry) and an anti-union media in Honolulu that characterizes anti-labor elected officials as “reformers.”
She made her mark in Hawaii’s state legislature as a “renegade” Democrat (e.g. Democrat in name only) who championed cuts to wages and benefits for public employees, as reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (“Hanabusa bucked the will of labor unions to push for civil service reform”):
In this case “civil service reform” means screwing public workers out of their wages and benefits.
After being elected to Congress in 2010, Hanabusa voted for “free trade” with Korea (the KORUS agreement – which labor opposed) and proudly trumpeted her role in its passage.
KORUS was even opposed by the labor movement in South Korea.
KORUS was also opposed by the labor movement in the U.S., notably including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which has a large presence in Hawai`i.
Hanabusa is a leader of the New Democrat Coalition (chairing its National Security Task Force). The New Dems are currently lobbying for the largest trade deals in history, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Partnership. Labor groups, including ILWU, vehemently oppose these.
Thankfully, Hawai`i labor unions are paying attention. The state’s largest union, the Hawai`i Government Employees Association, has endorsed incumbent Senator Brian Schatz over Hanabusa.
Indeed, more than 20 unions have endorsed Schatz.
None have endorsed Hanabusa. The ILWU is one of the few major unions that hasn’t yet weighed in on the race.
Despite National ILWU's opposition to the trade agreements that Hanabusa so loves, it will be interesting to see if a certain Maui ILWU business manager's personal war on the environment will influence ILWU's endorsement decision toward her or whether common sense will prevail and ILWU will endorse pro-labor, Brian Schatz as the other unions have.
Hanabusa has probably gone as far as she can with an anti-labor record in a pro-labor state. There’s even speculation in Hawai`i that she may have killed her political career by leaving her safe House seat to go after the incumbent senator. If Hanabusa's next fundraising total is as lackluster as her previous and Schatz's totals continue to soar, she may decide to drop her Senate attempt and keep her House seat.