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The union’s 13,000 members have worked since July 1, 2011 under a two-year contract the governor unilaterally imposed. HSTA has since fought the state in multiple venues, trying to reach an agreement.
The new website, contractforthefuture.org, provides a timeline of what brought HSTA to this point. The governor has his own version via hawaii.gov. A side-by-side look at the two histories highlights their distinct positions and perceptions.
Abercrombie starts his summary in January 2011, when he entered office facing a state budget deficit of $1.3 billion and “called on everyone in Hawaii to make a shared sacrifice so that together we would emerge from the challenging times.”
He highlights the months the state — including the Department of Education and newly appointed board members — spent negotiating with HSTA leaders to reach a new contract agreement.
Those talks eventually resulted in both sides agreeing in April 2011 to a temporary 5 percent wage reduction and an equal share of health care premium costs, reflecting terms agreed to by other public employees.
In June 2011, Abercrombie’s summary says, the HSTA board rejected the temporary agreement without providing a counter offer. Notice went out that the state would implement its “last, best, and final offer.”
The union’s timeline starts here. The website says in July 2011 HSTA filed lawsuits to protect its members’ constitutional rights to bargain after the governor imposed a contract on teachers.
The Hawaii Labor Relations Board took a case that finally wrapped up in May, but it has yet to make a ruling.
Although the union’s website doesn’t note this in its timeline, HSTA in September asked the state Supreme Court to make HLRB issue a decision. The court on Oct. 19 said it wouldn’t, but it did tell the board it had 20 days to explain what was taking so long.
Accord Turns To Discord
The governor’s and union’s timelines jump together from July 2011 to January 2012, but they have different versions of what happened at the beginning of this year.
Abercrombie bullets the new six-year tentative agreement the state agreed to with the union that teachers failed to ratify when put to a vote. His history also notes the state’s subsequent efforts in January to get the union to return to negotiations.
The union’s website says teachers voted no because the vote was rushed and more information was needed on the performance evaluation component in the contract. It also says, “Employer not trusted.”
The accounts of February just get worse.
The governor’s timeline says HSTA submitted a new contract proposal, but the state found it “fiscally irresponsible and devoid of reasonable policy regarding standards and performance.”
HSTA’s February history says the governor was angry at teachers and gave up on negotiations.
The union’s timeline says the governor lobbied bills for teacher evaluations and failed in February, but lawmakers didn’t scrap them until the end of the legislative session. It also says the Board of Education passed a policy for teacher evaluations and performance-based pay in February, but that didn’t happen until mid-April.
March was a quick speed bump. The union’s and the governor’s timelines note the state’s settlement offer, with HSTA thinking it was a 2.5-page joke and Abercrombie finding it reasonable.
April and May marked a further breakdown in communication between the state and union. The governor’s timeline explains how his administration was negotiating with HSTA on the March contract proposal as the union announced plans to re-vote on the January offer.
HSTA’s website highlights May as the month when teachers voted yes on the January agreement, but the governor rejected it. Abercrombie says that contract agreement was invalid since another offer was on the table.
The union’s timeline then skips to October, when the two sides agreed to try non-binding federal mediation. HSTA says the state violated the rules and offered “less and less,” so the union walked away.
The governor’s history included the brief glimmer of hope that came with a joint statement in August when both sides agreed to pursue the help of the federal mediator.
Abercrombie’s timeline ends in October on the similarly dour note of the mediation not working after HSTA ended its participation, but the governor says he remains willing to engage in mediation.
The union’s timeline ends in November with a question. “Governor, why don’t we deserve a fair contract?”
The two sides are set to meet Nov. 14 to discuss the state’s proposed contract for the next two years. But the union doesn’t seem optimistic based on a message on its website:
“Soon the governor is going to tell the media that he is looking forward to resuming negotiations with HSTA. Of course he is excited. The state is taking more steps backward by offering us a regressive proposal for 2013-2015.”
Teachers said the contract offer that’s been circulating is from July. It includes a new evaluation system tied to teacher performance and student growth; a longer probationary period for new teachers; drug and alcohol testing based on “reasonable suspicion; and changes to sick leave and bell schedules.
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