Important update from Negotiations Team; New details to be released at Institute Day

As a labor union, one of the fundamental tasks of the HSTA is to negotiate more favorable working conditions and benefits via collective bargaining for its members. To this end, your negotiations team has been actively bargaining with the employer since Aug. 15 on a contract to replace the current one which expires on June 30.

The bargaining process begins with an initial exchange of proposals by both sides. Once the negotiations team was selected in December 2015, months of work gathering feedback from numerous stakeholder groups went into crafting the HSTA’s initial proposals. Last month, the team shared its 40 proposals with members in a move that was unprecedented in the Association’s history.

While fair compensation always remains first on the minds of our members, most of our reasonable proposals for a two-year contract seek to improve your working conditions and our students’ learning conditions. Class size issues have been consistently reported as problematic and are addressed in our proposals. We also propose to completely revamp the onerous teacher evaluation system into one that is more relevant and realistic. Time is always of concern and has been addressed in a number of ways which include additional prep time, more time for IEP and inclusion-related work, clearly delineated new teacher and mentor teacher time, increased conversion from sick leave to personal leave, increased flexibility for faculties to determine grading deadlines, protected transition time for multi-track schools and further opportunities for transferring throughout the year. Multiple subgroups of students and teachers are addressed in our proposals including extensive special education improvements, supports for our English Language Learners, dealing with limitations placed upon our career and technical education teachers, taking care of those who work in our hard to staff areas, attending to those who have to teach and learn in oppressively hot conditions as well as fully recognizing our brothers and sisters who work in charter schools.  Finally, we have proposed that all male-centered contract language be converted to female-centered given that our union’s female-to-male ratio is 3:1.

Although we are the professionals who work on the front lines daily with our keiki, the employer very often disregards our pleas on how to make this a better system for all.  In July 2014, governor candidate David Ige wrote an open letter to public educators about the EES stating that he would work with the Board of Education “to re-assess and come up with a more responsible solution that builds morale, capacity, and professionalism.”  And yet, the employer’s proposal takes the EES and makes it worse by getting rid of prior notice for observations, cutting required training and eliminating district support.  This is just one example of the many takeaways being pushed upon us from across the table. Teachers Institute Week is coming up and is the perfect opportunity to let decision makers know that we will not sit idly by and accept worse working conditions and less take home pay. Come to Institute and find out what else is being proposed that will threaten your livelihood and make teaching in Hawaii even less attractive than it already is. We will also provide for you the alarming details on how many hundreds (and even thousands) of dollars more you will be expected to pay for your health care under their proposals. A 1 percent bonus will certainly be insufficient to cover those increases.

Your negotiations team is working to do everything it can to avoid a strike. As we see in our classrooms, students often become hopeless and give up too soon. As members of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, we cannot succumb to that same fate. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  We must come together now and actively work to make our profession one that is respected. Come to Institute! Get engaged! Find out what’s going on and let’s fight for Schools our Keiki Deserve!

With Aloha from your Negotiations Team:

Paul Daugherty, Konawaena High School Teacher

Shannon Kaaa,  Fern Elementary Teacher

Diane Mokuau, Vice Chair,  Molokai High Librarian

Corey Rosenlee, HSTA President

Osa Tui, State Negotiations Chair, McKinley High School Registrar

Andrea Eshelman, Chief Negotiator and Deputy Executive Director

Wilbert Holck, HSTA Executive Director

Ray Camacho, HSTA Negotiations Specialist