The Hawaii State Teachers Association wants to cover all its bases in the conflict over a state-imposed contract.

Two announcements on Wednesday seemed to be at odds with one another: The union announced that, despite a pending labor complaint against the state, HSTA leaders have asked Gov. Neil Abercrombie and his negotiators to return to bargaining.

A few hours later, HSTA President [Wil Okabe] issued a statement critiquing the “anti-union” record of the attorney hired to represent the state in the pending labor dispute.

Robert Katz, Okabe wrote, “has a long anti-union history” and is “one of Hawaii’s preeminent anti-union lawyers.” Katz received a $50,000 no-bid contract from the state’s Attorney General to help handle its case against the teachers union.

The hire is an interesting statement from a Democratic governor, the union president observes, who has long been closely associated with labor groups.

Read Okabe’s full statement below:

July 27, 2011

It is surprising that our Democratic Governor would hire an anti-union lawyer to represent him and the State against teachers.

The State calls Robert Katz “qualified.” If what you want is a lawyer with a long history of anti-union activities, who fought against Local 5 and hotel housekeepers, and has sought to restrict the rights of workers to a fair union contract, then Mr. Katz is indeed well-qualified.

Mr. Katz’s Web site boasts of experience ‘to help employers effectively respond to union organizing campaigns and election petitions.’

This turn of events establishes a pattern that we have long wished to deny – the Governor and his administration are behaving in a way unworthy of someone who came to unions a year ago asking for and gladly taking our help.

While we certainly don’t believe that supporting candidate Abercrombie would entitle us to special treatment at the bargaining table from Governor Abercrombie, we are surprised to find ourselves facing one of Hawaii’s preeminent anti-union lawyers as we struggle to protect our Constitutional rights to fair and honest collective bargaining.

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