The labor union representing University of Hawaii faculty sued Gov. David Ige and other state officials in federal court Wednesday in an attempt to halt a plan to furlough government workers starting January 1.
The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly argues in its complaint that the furloughs violate the Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The contract for UH faculty, last approved in 2017, is effective through June 30, 2021.
The planned furloughs would amount to a 9.23% pay reduction, according to UHPA.
Ige has already said he may be able to delay furloughs until July if Congress gives more aid to state governments in its next relief bill, which is being stalled over stimulus payments by outgoing President Donald Trump.
“Furloughs are not something I want to do – it’s something that I might have to do because we just don’t have the funds to make payroll,” Ige said on Hawaii News Now Sunrise Wednesday morning.
UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern said he’s hopeful that an anticipated $23 billion in funding for higher education in the next relief bill would help delay furloughs. But the union did not want to wait and see what happens at the federal level.
“Rather than wait and hope he will do the right thing, we feel compelled to take decisive action in the midst of the uncertainty created by the governor by filing this complaint,” Fern said in a written statement.
UH President David Lassner and Curt Otaguro, the state comptroller, are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The state had not filed a response to UHPA’s complaint as of Wednesday night.
The faculty union’s court challenge is the first filed by a Hawaii public workers union in response to state furloughs.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell