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Working for a better economy, better governance and a better society

This testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii on Oct. 19, 2020, to the Honolulu City Council’s Committee on Executive Matters and Legal Affairs.
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To: Ron Menor, Chair, and Carol Fukunaga, Vice Chair

From: Joe Kent, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii executive vice president

RE: Bill 80 (2020) — RELATING TO THE RIGHT OF RECALL

Aloha, Chair Menor, Vice Chair Fukunaga and other members of the Committee on Executive Matters and Legal Affairs.

As our state struggles to respond to the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown, we understand the urge to help the many Hawaii residents who are now out of work. 

Moreover, we understand and applaud the desire to see our local hotels back in business, well-staffed and thriving again.

Unfortunately, we have grave concerns about the mechanism chosen to accomplish these goals. By interfering in the personnel and business decisions of our local hotels, Bill 80 might end up hurting the industry and its workers more than it helps.

Putting aside the question of whether the measures envisioned in Bill 80 are enforceable — or whether they are preempted by state law and vulnerable to legal challenge — this attempt to regulate the rehiring of hotel staff is an unprecedented effort to inject the city into the private management decisions and contracts of local businesses. 

Such decisions are not the domain of local government. Rather, these issues of rehiring procedures and hotel capacity are more properly left to the businesses, the workers and the workers’ union representatives. 

Given the uncertainty surrounding the future of tourism in Hawaii, local businesses must have the freedom and flexibility to approach reopening and restaffing in the way that makes the most economic sense for them. If they are hampered by new regulations, they may have to delay their re-openings, open on a smaller scale, or even close their doors forever.

It is not possible to reset the economy or the hotel industry to a pre-COVID state via legislative action. Moreover, enacting additional regulations on opening procedures is more likely to slow the recovery than speed it up. 

Rather than achieve its goal of boosting the rehiring process, Bill 80 might persuade hotels that the risks of reopening are too high, thus slowing their efforts to reach previous staffing levels. Ultimately, the people who will suffer most are the workers Bill 80 is intended to help.

If the Council wants to bolster the county’s economy — and who doesn’t want to do that? —  it would be better to pursue policies that lower the regulatory burden on local businesses, not increase it. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Aloha,

Joe Kent
Executive vice president
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii