Teachers talks got lost in sour tone

I found it fascinating that much of the complaint the Hawaii State Teachers Association filed with the Labor Relations Board over the Abercrombie administration imposing its “last, best and final offer” centered on hurt feelings over the tone of negotiations.

The Star-Advertiser story caught the gist of it in this passage:

HSTA’s complaint details eight months of tense negotiations, during which state chief negotiator Neil Dietz allegedly said in April that unless HSTA agreed to a 5 percent wage reduction, “lots of ‘nasty things can happen to your working conditions.’”

The same month, Dietz responded to an HSTA negotiating team member who asked for more time to consider the 5 percent wage reductions by cursing and hitting the table with his notebook, the filing alleges.

“He got up to leave and said if you don’t accept this, it will be 10 percent by the Legislature,” the complaint said.

The filing also said that in June, (Schools Superintendent Kathryn) Matayoshi told (HSTA leader Wil) Okabe that “if HSTA did not accept the 5 percent cuts, the Department of Education would need to cut 800 jobs, including probationary teachers.”

Despite all the talk we hear about “collaboration,” collective bargaining is an adversarial process that can get rough and tumble as the two sides jockey to find fair terms just short of the point where employees are willing to walk out on strike or the employer is willing to accept a strike.

While negotiators are usually best off when they keep their cool, the tactics ascribed to Dietz and Matayoshi are not beyond the bounds of the acceptable; I’ve heard a lot tougher talk in private-sector labor negotiations.

If an employer needs savings from labor costs and can’t get employees to accept less pay, the only options are to reduce the number of employees or achieve savings by changing working conditions. Pointing out this reality isn’t hitting below the belt.

When Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced his chief labor negotiator would be Dietz, a union guy who previously served as port agent for the Seafarers, many thought public workers would be in for smooth sailing.

But I suspected the going could get rough based on the view of some private-sector union leaders that their counterparts in the public unions are a bunch of privileged wimps.

This divide seems to be playing out in the teachers’ talks.

Here’s the full text of the HSTA complaint, and the governor’s office yesterday issued its own detailed view of how talks broke down. They make for interesting comparison.

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4 Comments on “Teachers talks got lost in sour tone”

  1. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    I gather that the HSTA leadership – and its members – haven’t been paying attention to what’s been happening to their professional colleagues across the country.

    What’s mo`betta? Cutting jobs based upon tenure or shutting down government altogether or reducing everyone’s salaries so that the kids whose parents cannot afford to send them to private schools can have a chance to survive in the world we’ve given to them.

    Actually, if I were God, Queen or President, I would institute a mandatory death sentence for everyone over the age 50. I used to draw the line at 40, but with so many women these days deferring to have children until they’re well into their 30s & beyond, I decided to let them live a little longer.

    Getting rid of the Old Futs would free up a lot of money and would make young adults under the age of 30 feel that they actually have some reason to get involved in public policy issues.

    Seriously, sounds like the HSTA/NEA has segued into the American Federation of Teachers.

    Maybe it would help the HSTA negotiating team if the picket lines were filled with huge local guys wearing bright green or orange t-shirts.

  2. zzzzzing Says:

    I don’t understand what’s wrong with what Matayoshi said. If it’s reality, it’s reality. The file doesn’t state that she shouted at Okabe, just that they’d need to cut jobs if they didn’t cut salaries – much of what the private sector has heard for years.

    @ cap/wud – re: murdering anyone over 50:

    You are a truly scary person & I hope you get some help.

  3. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    zzzzzing: I would be on the Old Futs List.

    Since the vast majority of the publicdoes not want to seriously cut services or raise taxes, there will come a time – probably around 2035 – when hard decisions are going to be made about who gets to live and who is shuffed off this mortal coil in a humane way.

    Seriously, how would you handle providing/funding public services? Should we get rid of public education? Should we start eliminate public retirement benefits? Should we draw down the military to the National Guard level?

  4. Doug Says:

    “While negotiators are usually best off when they keep their cool, the tactics ascribed to Dietz and Matayoshi are not beyond the bounds of the acceptable.”

    Says you, David.

    As you no doubt are aware, there is much more to the HSTA complaint than lamentations about “salty language.”

    What about the “direct dealing” of trying to circumvent the union negotiators tactic, the unilaterally “declaring an impasse and imposing new terms of employment before the negotiation time has run out” tactic, the “most favored nation” tactic that essentially allowed the state to bargain with HGEA(!) to set the terms of the HSTA deal, and the “write the final figure into the budget before a contract is agreed” tactic? Those tactics, according to the HSTA complaint (a complaint which, so far, the state has not responded to in a claim-by-claim rebuttal), are beyond the bounds of what is acceptable under Hawaii labor law.

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