The Hawai'i State AFL-CIO, on behalf of the working men & women of Hawai'i who don't own a Big Business, expresses it's collective "Mahalo nui!" to all the following letter writers who have had the courage to stand up against the vicious media attack on Senator Brian Kanno, a great man who has long stood as a champion of workers' rights in our State legislature!

Editor's Note: State Law (HRS 378) makes it an "unlawful discriminatory practice" to fire someone because of "race, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, color, ancestry, disability, marital status, or arrest and court record [emphasis added]. There are exception for educational and financial institutions, which it would seem do not apply here. This is a matter of public policy and within the scope of State labor law.

Kanno attacked while trying to find justice

It is unfortunate for Sen. Brian Kanno to face so much dilemma at this time for bringing justice for a citizen, Leon Rouse, who has no other means of defending himself ("GOP senators call for Kanno to step down," Star-Bulletin, April 13). Isn't it the elected officials' job to defend those who have no other alternative for representation? A common man's voice is often trumped against a large company.

On a related note, Rep. Rida Cabanilla is being attacked in the backwash for her hiring of Rouse. The fact is, Cabanilla did not know of the incident in the Philippines (where Rouse spent eight years in prison). She's been trying to help alleviate many of the social problems in her district and it was shocking for her to hear bad news regarding her former office manager.

With the legislative session coming to an end in a few weeks, let's focus on finishing what matters most -- the passage of bills that will benefit those living in Hawaii, not headlines about a person's past.

Remy Balanon
Star Bulletin, 4-23-05

Kanno stands against big business

Newspaper articles and an editorial (Star-Bulletin, April 13) serve to denigrate, intimidate and subject the hardworking Sen. Brian Kanno from Kapolei, Makakilo, Village Park, Kalaeloa, Waikele and parts of Waipahu.

Kanno is chairman of the Senate Labor Committee and as such, he did his job when he assisted the former employee of the Norwegian Cruise Line. Kanno was standing up for an employee rather than allowing big business to trample on the rights of the worker. Someone needed to stand up for due process.

Besides all this, there is a deeper motive in this witch hunt and that is discrediting a Democratic senator. Kanno has worked hard for our district in making sure that funds were intact for the new library, the new high school and the new judiciary building, among others too numerous to list here. The Republicans have never in the last nine years introduced a bill for the benefit of our community, except for this year, but have not been able to garner enough support for any of the bills that make a difference for our children or community.

The facts have been distorted. Since when is the Philippines a center for human rights? Since when is big business fair to workers regarding pay or due process unless they are required by union negotiations or federal/state laws?

Carolyn Martinez Golojuch
Star Bulletin, 4-22-05

Kanno's actions proper for an elected official

The Star-Bulletin should stop criticizing state Sen. Brian Kanno (Editorial, April 13), who recently looked into whether Norwegian Cruise Line exercised proper business practices and due process in its firing of an employee. Because the issue involves the labor practices of a business operating in Hawaii, I can understand Kanno's interest in this matter. I call your attention to the Terri Schiavo case in which legislators in Florida, even those whose committees had nothing to do with health, human services, or consumer protection, used the legislative process to pass a bill on behalf of a single individual. May I remind you that the president of the United States himself took action, even attempting to usurp the judicial process, on behalf of a single individual.

People ask their elected officials for help all the time. Wouldn't you like to know that there are legislators who would listen and would be willing to help? Why hasn't the Star-Bulletin done more to investigate if the firing of Leon Rouse was proper? By the way, I always felt that cruise ships should pay hotel taxes.

Gary Saito
Star Bulletin, 4-20-05

Sen. Kanno works hard for community

I am deeply saddened on the recent event surrounding Sen. Brian Kanno. I am a longtime Makakilo resident and know Sen. Kanno. <> Brian Kanno is a breath of fresh air to politics. He is a well-rounded, deeply concerned individual who goes out of his way to make our community a better place to live in. On numerous occasions, I have called Brian's office, house and cell phone to share my concerns with him. He is always more than willing to listen to my concerns and acts accordingly. He is supportive and helpful; he makes you feel proud that he is our senator.

Everyone knows politics, especially in our neighborhood. It just seems to me that this is nothing more than other politicians trying their best to oust a man who gives so much for his constituents. Wake up, get the facts and support the man who does so much for your community.

Shane Kincaid
Advertiser, 4-20-05 and Star-Bulletin, 4-16-05

Sen. Kanno did good to help out little guy

I am wondering about the ado made with reference to Sen. Brian Kanno. I am befuddled by the concern.

If a person is terminated from his job, shouldn't he know the allegation and who made it? That would give him the opportunity to confront the accusation. Isn't that what we would want? Trial by hearsay sounds un-American. Also, why wouldn't Norwegian Cruise Line pay for his transport back to Hawai'i? His presence in California was a result of his employment, so it would seem logical and fair that the cruise line return him to his domicile.

I applaud Mr. Kanno's concern for the little people. So often our representatives are there for the power brokers and we have no one to express our concerns. Thank you, Mr. Kanno.

Dolores Duchene-Kim Waipahu
Advertiser, 4-16-05

Honolulu Advertiser, ISLAND VOICES (4-15-05)

Legislators must protect people of Hawai'i

By Richard Port

For a newspaper that usually gets it right, The Advertiser got it wrong with your April 10 editorial when you stated, "The responsibility of legislators is to set broad policy through sensible laws on behalf of the people of Hawai'i. Period."

You certainly leave the wrong impression if you believe that citizens should not have a right to request their legislators to listen to, and even do something about, their problems and concerns. Whether citizens live in Montana or Hawai'i, they want to believe that their legislators represent them personally. That is what Leon Rouse wanted.

Why do we have a "Brady" bill or an "Amber" alert if individual citizens cannot petition their legislators for help? California is now considering a "Christie" bill that would hold police officers accountable in some types of automobile pursuit cases on public roads.

Closer to home, a decade ago condominium law was changed in Hawai'i because one young girl's pet died. Hawai'i law used to say that if a condominium changed its by-laws to prohibit pets, an owner could keep his current pet but could not bring a new pet into the condominium when the pet died. However, the girl petitioned the Legislature to change the law, and it was, in fact, changed to grandfather the owner rather than the pet, thus allowing owners to have a pet so long as they lived in that condominium.

Hawai'i's law and, I am certain, the laws of other states are filled with legislation that has been adopted through the efforts of one or more individuals requesting help from legislators.

I have been known to take on my fellow Democrats in the past and will do so in the future when they fail to live up to their fiduciary responsibilities to fellow citizens. However, as a former member of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission and as someone who has always been interested in ensuring worker rights are honored, I find Norwegian Cruise Line's treatment of Leon Rouse, the citizen Sen. Brian Kanno was trying to help, appears to have been shabby at best. To hire Rouse in Hawai'i and fire him in California without a hearing and without providing airfare home may have been legal, but it lacked class or aloha.

Businesses need to be free from excessive interference by legislative bodies, but businesses should also be expected to treat their employees humanely. There is a natural tension between businesses that would like to be left alone and workers who believe that, in America, they have a right to fair treatment. Many workers are finding that they and their jobs are vulnerable to the whims of their employers. In effect, they are sometimes treated like an expendable piece of meat.

It appears that Sen. Kanno, in his dealings with Norwegian Cruise Line, was motivated by his role as chairman of the Senate Labor Committee and his commitment to the civil rights of an American citizen and certainly not by any campaign contribution or support that Rouse would ever be able to give him. It also appears that Sen. Kanno was concerned as to whether the civil rights of Leon Rouse had been violated.

The notion that Sen. Kanno was seeking "unwarranted privileges or advantages" for himself or Rouse, as alleged by Senate Republicans, is truly ridiculous. The 200-pound gorilla in this case is Norwegian Cruise Line. Sen. Kanno did not stand to gain anything by helping Rouse, who is not a lobbyist, only an average citizen.

Republican Sen. Fred Hemmings' statement in Wednesday's Honolulu Advertiser referring to Sen. Kanno's conduct as "legislative power being leveraged to extort a favor from or an action from a private-sector company" is absurd. Sen. Kanno was responding to a citizen's belief that he was being unfairly accused of sexual harassment without the opportunity to face his accuser as other employees had been allowed to do, summarily fired by a company that had arbitrary sexual harassment procedures and ordered off a ship 2,000 miles from home.

Sen. Kanno and other legislators thought this conduct outrageous and wrote a letter requesting clarification of the Norwegian Cruise Line's sexual harassment procedures. When the company stonewalled, a resolution was introduced to look into how this company, which has been sued by at least one travel agency for poor performance, is conducting its business in Hawai'i.

If the resolution had been heard, Norwegian Cruise Line would have had to state precisely what the company's sexual harassment procedures are and justify why they had treated one of Hawai'i's employees one way and others a different way.

I urge our citizens and our media to step back and consider carefully both sides of this issue before passing judgment in the case of Sen. Kanno's conduct or the conduct of any other person involved in this matter.

Richard Port is the former chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.