KHON 2 TV News
May 1, 2012
Brianne Randle (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When there's a fire - firefighters are there to respond.
When there's a crime - police are there to investigate.
When a swimmer, surfer or any beach goer is in trouble - lifeguards are there to help.
But unlike fire and police, lifeguards do not have their own union. A bill before the state legislature would have changed that, but fell to the wayside in the final stretch.
"Shocked, disappointed and raised a question as to why? It had done so well up to this point," says Jeff Morelock, Honolulu City & County Lifeguard.
"It wasn't just Oahu lifeguards, it was statewide there were lifeguards that came in from the Neighbor Islands to testify on the bill," says Ralph Goto, Honolulu Ocean Safety & Lifeguard Services Administrator.
Currently lifeguards across the state are part of the HGEA, unit that represents a majority of white-collar employees.
"The ratio currently stands at 350 lifeguards to 23,000 primarily secretaries within the bargaining unit #3," says Morelock. "Our voice was often not heard through the debate and process of creating our contracts."
Hawaii lifeguards watch over 15 million beach goers a year, perform over 1,000 rescues, treat hundreds of serious medical cases and prevent thousands of potential incidents from occurring by intervening and educating both visitors and residents about ocean hazards and dangers - and therefore feel they should be categorized separately.
Lifeguards worked with lawmakers to create a new bargaining unit for them. A measure that all 4 county Mayors supported.
"Lifeguards are really over worked, tired a lot of times, and they are underpaid so we're trying to help them and bring that voice to the Legislature. I think we accomplished that, but we didn't quite get the bill passed," says Senator Kalani English, (D) East Maui, Molokai, Lanai.
Sen. English says negotiations to include other first responders may have doomed the measure in legislative conference committee.
"We definitely learned from this session and we will be back a little better educated," says Goto.
Lifeguards have been trying to push this issue for several years, and say they are not giving up.