Who was in charge when collective bargaining for Hawaii teachers’ contract fell apart this summer?

That was the focus of a lengthy exchange at a Hawaii Labor Relations Board hearing last week.

HSTA attorney Herb Takahashi couldn’t seem to answer Labor Board Chairman Jim Nicholson’s questions about who called the shots during negotiations that ended in June with the state’s team declaring impasse (HSTA says prematurely) and Gov. Neil Abercrombie unilaterally implementing a new contract for teachers in July.

While public labor negotiations are neither simple nor easy, identifying who is in charge should be: the chief negotiators. In this case, this was the first time in that role for both chief negotiators.

Neil Dietz, State Chief Negotiator

The state’s chief negotiator is perhaps best known right now for allegedly losing his temper during a meeting with the teachers union. But there’s more to Neil Dietz than “serious f—ing sh-t.”

Dietz joined the governor’s team with more than 30 years of labor experience, but little of it directly involved negotiations and none of it was in the public sector.

Abercrombie appointed Dietz in February, coinciding with his retirement as Port Agent for the Seafarers International Union, where he was in charge of day-to-day operations. He started out with the union in Seattle in 1986 and transferred to Honolulu 15 years ago, according to an SIU profile of him. Before that, he was a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union, where he became president of a central labor council in the Midwest.

Before his appointment as chief negotiator, Dietz also was vice president of Hawaii AFL-CIO, a union of more than 70 unions and one of the most powerful labor organizations in the state.

Despite his years of experience with private sector labor, this year was Dietz’s first dealing with public labor negotiations, and he was put in charge.

Georgiana Alvaro, HSTA Chief Negotiator

Georgiana Alvaro came to HSTA about two decades ago as a field representative, which means she worked with the Hawaii Department of Education on things like employment grievances. Before that she worked for the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers.

Alvaro is vice president of the Institute for Native Pacific Education and Culture. She grew up in Windward Oahu, went to Kamehameha Schools, graduated from Georgetown College and studied law at the William S. Richardson School of Law. Her work with the school system led her to help develop a course for teachers in teaching disadvantaged children.

Although she has been involved in negotiations before, this was Alvaro’s first year as the union’s chief negotiator.

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