HSTA flounders in labor battle

The Hawaii State Teachers Association is making self-defeating moves in its legal fight to overturn a state-imposed contract that hits teachers with a 5-percent pay cut and a greater share of medical premiums.

The HSTA’s complaint to the state Ethics Commission that Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the Department of Education engaged in illegal ex parte communication with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board backfired when the labor board delayed hearings on the union’s prohibited practice complaint to instead hear evidence on the suggestions of bias.

That’s not what HSTA wanted at all; it was looking to take a political shot at Abercrombie and the DOE and instead winds up on the defensive explaining itself to an unamused labor board.

The ethics complaint, over a letter the employers sent to the labor board suggesting directed mediation to resolve the dispute, has even some labor lawyers scratching their heads.

The administration also sent a copy of the letter to the HSTA, making it difficult to sell an argument that the employers were operating behind the union’s back.

The other questionable move was issuing subpoenas to have top legislative leaders testify before the HLRB on the budget they passed in April that assumed a 5-percent pay cut for the teachers.

The union argues that this locked in the pay cut before negotiations concluded, denying the teachers their right to collective bargaining.

It’s another legal stretch. The Legislature often must pass a budget before all labor negotiations are done and makes its best guess on labor costs. If negotiations turn out differently, the budget is adjusted.

HSTA leaders are acting like they think they have already lost the legal battle and are instead fighting a clumsy PR war.

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7 Comments on “HSTA flounders in labor battle”

  1. el guapo Says:

    Agreed, Coach Okabe seems to be stumbling around as the face of HSTA, but don’t count out a union that hires Herb Takahashi to represent them. It seemed like he was responsible for many of the previous rulings in favor of UPW.

  2. Doug Says:

    The subpoena to the legislators won’t fly. It is patently un-Constitutional (Article 3, Section 7).

    As for the ex-parte communication ethics complaint, you’re entitled to your opinion, David, but I think it is the HLRB and the DOE/Governor that are going to fare worse. Maybe David is okay with ex parte communication (which is an activity not in any way absolved by cc’ing the other parties). I’m not.

    BTW, whatever the outcome of the HLRB hearing on the ex parte communication, that complaint will also be considered by the Ethics Commission.

  3. kalaheo Says:

    I think the HSTA is rapidly running out of feet to shoot themselves in. They need either more feet or they need to stop shooting.

  4. Kolea Says:

    The HSTA is not “stumbling around” because their leadership is incompetent. They are in a very difficult spot with very few options. They have been cornered and boxed in by a Governor they had mistakenly assumed was a “friend of Labor.” It is not unfair to note that the Governor has been “stumbling” a helluva lot. The legislators have been stumbling. And the vaunted “private sector” has been stumbling, often into a ditch.

    The reality is, it is the GLOBAL economy which is stumbling and we’ll be lucky if the damn thing doesn’t end up face down in a ditch.

    The teacher’s are advocating for their particular interests but they don’t hold a lot of cards. Anti-union observers may relish this situation or “tut, tut” at Will Okabe’s choice of tactics. But we ALL have a stake in finding a way to pay teachers better or those with options will continue to leave the profession. Or, if they remain, will likely be beaten into zombie’s in service to the latest fad “reform” of outside politicians and kibitzers.

    The media turns these negotiations into a spectator sport and we watch with amusement as the union tries helplessly to resist the Governor’s efforts to squeeze yet more concessions from the embattled teachers.

    The Governor and the legislators (and the President of the United States) DO have options. They can wage a battle on the side of the teachers and other working people struggling to maintain a middle-class standard of living. They can follow up on their RHETORIC about “Shared Sacrifice” and raise revenues from those who actually have wealth. The rich ARE getting richer and the Dems don’t have the courage to press THEM to raise revenues, preferring to torture teachers in full public view.

    I apologize. I have been unfair to the Governor. He DOES want to raise revenues, by taxing he pensions of retirees and reneging on the state’s obligation to pay for their MedIcare PART B payments.

    Foolish teachers, assuming Neil actually believed all those Democratic platitudes about the rights of working people to a decent standard of living. Maybe they should buy a booth at the APEC event and seek out a sweetheart deal with Asian capital? The administration would help them then.

  5. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Tut. tut.

  6. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Within the Hawai`i Democratic Party’s core leadership as represented by its State Central Committee – I sit on it alolng with dozens of others – there is a HUGE split as to what the Party should be doing on a variety of issues related to HSTA, Aberecrombie, the Legislature, the media, etc., etc..

    Wonder if anyone outside the Party is tracking this and alerting the public as to what is going on?

    .

  7. WooWoo Says:

    Teachers need to take a cut ’cause there’s no money. Raising taxes on the “rich,” while easy to stump on, doesn’t solve the problem.

    The math doesn’t work out. If you want to raise revenues, you have to tax the middle class. You think Neil is shy to tax the “rich?”. It’s not that. He gets shown the numbers and realizes that there are not enough rich people to make a significant dent in the budget. But no politician is going to guarantee defeat by suggesting that we raise taxes (or eliminate deductions) on the middle class.


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