Governor has failed to honor his commitment to education
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Feb 06, 2013
By Justin Hughey
In his State of the State address, Gov. Neil Abercrombie said, "This administration won't abandon collective ...bargaining."
Yet Abercrombie was the first governor in the country to mandate a contract on teachers.
Attacks on public sector unions have been driven by the Republican Party. Abercrombie didn't try to eliminate the teachers union; he just bypassed the collective bargaining law in the Hawaii Constitution.
For the record, look at the timeline of this circus.
» At his inaugural after he won election, Abercrombie stated over and over, "No more furloughs." This must have been political grandstanding because furloughs were eliminated for students but not for their teachers. The terminology was then changed to Directed Leave Without Pay, or DLWOP, days.
» 2011: After the governor imposed a contract on the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the union filed a lawsuit to protect its constitutional rights to bargain. A complaint was also filed with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.
» January 2012: The teachers were so upset with a contract that had continued pay reduction, they voted not to ratify the contract proposed by HSTA.
» February 2012: The governor gave up on negotiations and lobbied to end teacher tenure and unilaterally change the teacher evaluation system through the Legislature.
» March 2012: The state gave a worse offer just 21⁄2 pages long with no pay increase; HSTA rejected it.
» May 2012: HSTA brought the previous contract, initially voted down by teachers, for a second vote. It had not been formally withdrawn and legally could be voted on again. The governor rejected what he previously supported. (In a similar scenario in Maryland, the governor there accepted the union's second attempt.) HSTA finished presenting evidence to the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.
» June 2012: The state had a $300 million budget surplus created on the backs of public sector unions. All Abercrombie had to do was sign the contract he originally agreed to.
» September 2012: The state offered HSTA federal mediation, with the stipulation there be no media announcements unless made jointly. The governor violated this and the two parties came away with no contract.
» October 2012: The Hawaii Supreme Court told the labor board — its members are appointed by the governor — to answer why it has taken more than four months to issue a decision.
» November 2012: The labor board explained it can take years to render a decision. Keep in mind that if the union strikes before a decision is rendered, it loses the lawsuit. The Hawaii Teachers Work to the Rule movement was born and spread to more than a hundred public schools.
» December 2012: The state offered a take-it-or-leave-it offer to HSTA; the union rejected it.
» January 2013: The state rejected HSTA's offer for four years: restoration of a 60/40 percent medical contribution; restoration of 5 percent pay reduction and 4 percent increase each year.
During this long ordeal, teachers in Hawaii observed the successful Chicago teachers strike, and it was very eye-opening. The Chicago teacher's average salary was $76,000. They wanted a 20 percent raise for the first year of their contract, but settled for 17 percent.
Teachers in Hawaii are the lowest paid in the nation based on cost of living. The average elementary teacher's adjusted cost of living salary is only $27,048. Due to a teacher shortage, Hawaii hires teachers without teaching certification and pays them $30,610, an income for a family of three that qualifies for food stamps. Meager pay is one reason why Hawaii has the highest rate of teachers leaving the profession, with 56 percent leaving every five years, and up to 1,600 leaving every year.
Last year, Chicago schools spent $12,193 per student, while Hawaii spent $3,641. That amount is trending down, with the Hawaii number for this year coming to $3,531. The projection for next year is $3,452 and the next is projected at $3,401.
Neil Abercrombie said, "Education is a top priority of my administration."
Governor, you speak with forked tongue.
http://www.staradvertiser.com/editorialspremium/20130206__Governor_has_failed_to_honor_his_commitment_to_education_.html?id=189959901See MoreGovernor has failed to honor his commitment to education Hawaii News, Honolulu, Honolulu News, Sport Viewpoint – Governor is right: Hawaii is not Wisconsin
January 27, 2013
By ALAN ISBELL , for The Maui News
"For the record: This is not Wisconsin. This is not Michigan," Gov. Neil Abercrombie declared of Hawaii in his State of the St...ate address Tuesday, referring to state governments that recently mounted offensives against public worker unions.
While there is truth to that declaration, there is also a certain irony in the comparison. Wisconsin and Michigan were the states where the labor movement began in America. Hawaii plantation workers extended that struggle against unjust working conditions and wages through union organizing and overwhelming support for the Democratic Party.
Indeed, it is fortuitous for the governor to remember that, and to recognize that Hawaii is the third most unionized state in America. Unionized workers built the Democratic Party in Hawaii.
"This administration is not going to abandon collective bargaining," Abercrombie went on to say in his address.
That tends to fall on deaf ears when it comes to public school teachers here, who comprise the largest bloc of state workers. That is because the governor attempted to impose his will regarding how teachers are to be evaluated without teachers having any say in it. This did not fly in collective bargaining with the Hawaii State Teachers Association, so he attempted to coerce the Legislature into doing his dirty work in this regard. When that failed, he simply decreed it through his appointed Board of Education.
While Abercrombie early on in his speech ballyhooed "today's fiscally favorable outlook," he later thanked "those state employees who agreed to labor savings and additional payments for health benefits. There was no way we could have balanced our budget . . . without the commitment of those public workers."
Well, guess what? The teachers did not agree to the amount of the salary cuts and increases in their health insurance premiums. The contract mandating the labor savings the governor referred to was arbitrarily imposed on the teachers via a last, best and final contract offer.
HSTA responded via a complaint to the state labor board that Abercrombie did so without following the process required by the state's collective bargaining laws. This was to be futile, though, because the labor board was also appointed by the governor. And since it has yet to rule on the complaint, the union was checkmated by state law into any further response such as a strike.
Hawaii Government Employees Association was the first to reach a contract under the governor's watch, because that union's members believed Abercrombie when he gave HGEA "most favored nation" status, in effect guaranteeing them that percentage cuts in wages would be matched if more favorable amounts were agreed to by the other public worker unions. When United Public Workers agreed to a more favorable contract, Abercrombie's administration legally maneuvered out of having to be held to what it promised HGEA.
Although "we have now turned a fiscal corner," the governor postures that "good faith collective bargaining negotiations are essential if we are to move toward a resolution that is fair to everyone."
Forgive the unions if this speech sounds disingenuous, considering what transpired the first time this governor entered into collective bargaining with the unions representing all those teachers, counselors, principals, police officers, judges, firefighters, lifeguards, nurses, ambulance drivers, sanitation workers, accountants, inspectors and the rest of the myriad white- and blue-collar workers who actually make this state tick.
Wisconsin's governor is Scott Walker, a staunchly conservative Republican who repeatedly vowed to his wealthy campaign contributors that he would undermine the state's collective bargaining laws and thus destroy the state's public worker unions.
Yes, Hawaii is not Wisconsin. But Neil Abercrombie has some convincing to do if we are to believe that he is not Walker.
* Alan Isbell is a 4th-grade teacher at Wailuku Elementary School and the school's head faculty representative for the Hawaii State Teachers Association.See MoreViewpoint – Governor is right: Hawaii is not Wisconsin - Mauinews.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Visitor'www.mauinews.com“For the record: This is not Wisconsin. This is not Michigan,” Gov.