Many of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s Republican critics have been circulating a video of a frank exchange between the governor and several nurses from Maui Memorial Medical Center after an event at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center this month.
The nurses were the only unit in the Hawaii Government Employees Association to reject a new contract with a 5 percent pay cut, nine extra days off a year with pay, and a 50-50 split in health insurance premiums.
The public-worker nurses believe they are underpaid compared to their counterparts in the private sector. The contract dispute with the state could be headed toward binding arbitration.
Abercrombie asked the nurses why they and other public workers did not come before the state Legislature to support his pension tax, soda tax, and elimination of Medicare Part B reimbursements for retired public workers and their spouses, which he said could have provided more money to pay public workers.
While Abercrombie’s critics have seized on his tax comments, the most revealing part of the video comes at the end, when one of the nurses haughtily explains to the governor that she is no ordinary public worker.
Nurse: I’m not a conedropper, O.K.?
I’m not a conedropper, and I’m not a janitor, and I’m not a clerk. Even though those jobs are important, if that conedropper comes into my ER, I’m going to save their life for 34 percent less than what is out there.
And we’re talking benefits, too. Your benefit package. Your premiums. Your medical …
Abercrombie: Maybe that’s why they didn’t go down to the Legislature and work for you, because maybe the conedroppers and the clerks and so on thought that that’s what you think of them.
And so they didn’t show up for you.