HSTA President Wil Okabe had faced mounting public criticism for not releasing the unofficial turnout immediately after the voting period ended May 22.
Teachers rejected the offer by a two-to-one margin the first time around when 9,000 members cast ballots. It marked the first time in the union’s 41-year history that teachers voted against their board’s recommendation. Four months later, they reversed course with 66 percent voting in favor of the January offer.
Several teachers said the lower turnout and the change of heart in May was largely due to the options on the ballot. A “no” vote authorized the union to call for a strike, and questions lingered over what impact, if any, a “yes” vote would have if the agreement was no longer valid.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie has urged the union to submit a new proposal and return to the bargaining table. Stutter-step negotiations have been ongoing based on HSTA’s Feb. 28 proposal and the state’s March 19 settlement offer.
Okabe maintains that the re-vote results amount to a ratification that the state has the authority to accept. The union president reiterated this position over the weekend in a letter to teachers, calling the results a “ratification vote.” He could not be reached Sunday for comment.
Both sides of the nearly year-old labor dispute are motivated to reach an accord in part so the state can keep what’s left of the $75 million Race to the Top grant.
“With 66% voting yes on the settlement, HSTA members have strongly affirmed their commitment to protecting Hawaii’s $75 million Race to the Top grant to improve the education and lives of Hawaii’s children,” Okabe said in his three-paragraph letter Saturday.
Meantime, while some teachers seem pleased the turnout has finally been released, others are asking what the re-vote results actually mean.
“Is it valid if only half the teachers vote? I guess it doesn’t matter anyway if the governor said the old contract is off the table,” Holly Stockwell said Sunday on HSTA’s Facebook page. “Union … please let us know what is going on.”
Former union member Kris Coffield called into question a comment HSTA Executive Director Al Nagasako made about the delay when he called the board’s data review “standard practice.”
“If the BOD hasn’t reviewed the data yet, how can members be sure that the vote tally is valid? If the vote tally — which was released and widely circulated — was reviewed and certified by teh BOD, wouldn’t that require a review of pertinent voting information, like vote tallies and methods?” Coffield said Sunday. “And what about January, when the information was released immediately? Did the BOD certify everything then, all in a night? If so, what’s different this time around? Something doesn’t sound right.”
Teachers have worked since July under the “last, best, final offer” the governor imposed. The January contract includes performance-based pay increases and a controversial evaluation system tied to student growth.
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