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Monday, October 18, 2021
COVID Emergency Rules: HSTA to file complaint with Hawaii Labor Relations Board
By News Release @ 6:56 PM :: 897 Views :: Education K-12, Labor, COVID-19

HSTA to file complaint with Hawaii Labor Relations Board

This blatant disregard for our concerns and contractual rights cannot continue

News Release from HSTA, October 16, 2021

The following is a message to members from Hawaii State Teachers Association President Osa Tui, Jr.:

Colleagues,

For those of you finishing up fall break, I hope it’s been restful, relaxing, and rejuvenating!

As announced on Oct. 1, HSTA reported no action was taken on the two class grievances filed with the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE). Subsequently, HSTA took the next step and filed demands for arbitration, which would involve an impartial arbitrator listening to both sides and rendering a decision.

On Oct. 4, HIDOE responded that, as with our grievances, they would take “no further action” on the demands for arbitration. They essentially said they don’t have to listen to nor address any concerns related to changes in our working conditions, nor do they have to implement our negotiated grievance process.

On Oct. 8, HSTA submitted a request for information from HIDOE to “understand the specific basis and grounds to bypass collective negotiations.” The department did not respond to HSTA by the close of business on Friday, Oct. 15, as requested.

The suspension of Chapter 89 sets a dangerous precedent that ignores frontline knowledge and experience when determining health and safety protocols.

Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi and the HIDOE have used the governor’s emergency proclamation to strip away the rights of our members to collective bargaining. This impacts our working conditions now and sets a dangerous abuse of power precedent to the collective bargaining process in the future.

Suspending portions of Chapter 89 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes (collective bargaining in public employment) allowed the state to swiftly implement a vaccine/testing mandate in the community for health and safety purposes. But it also gave the HIDOE a blanket excuse to willfully ignore other critical issues in our schools, such as:

  • Inconsistent quarantining practices between schools that leave teachers out of the close contact identification process;
  • The significant additional burden of generating and grading work for students who quarantine or are kept home with limited access to distance learning options;
  • Inadequate classroom coverage given our severe substitute shortage; and
  • Unnecessary in-person staff meetings, often with inadequate ventilation.

Given HIDOE’s blatant disregard for protections afforded by the Hawaii State Constitution, HSTA has no choice but to have our labor attorneys proceed with filing a prohibited practice complaint this coming week to the Hawaii Labor Relations Board. The labor board could rule the state’s actions unlawful and order the employer to negotiate.

Though vaccinations are up and cases are on the decline, this pandemic is not over. Collaboration and planning are necessary to ensure all schools are safe, we have a strong teacher workforce, and our keiki receive the best education possible.

Educators agree learning is best accomplished in person, and we’re glad to see teachers and administrators in many schools working together to establish proper safety protocols. However, teachers at other schools are reporting questionable protocols that fall short of current health and safety guidelines. We must push for all schools to be safe.

When this school year began, the HIDOE was caught unprepared as the Delta variant prompted case counts to spike and triggered increased quarantines that exacerbated staffing shortages. Though case counts are now decreasing, we cannot be caught unprepared yet again. All stakeholders, including teachers, must work collaboratively on comprehensive response plans.

We’re already seeing the consequences of dismissing teacher voice and ongoing workforce issues. More than ever, Hawaii is losing teachers, and the numbers are sure to worsen with smaller paychecks and exceedingly difficult working conditions. If we fail to act now, Hawaii’s public education will continue to spiral.

The Board of Education sidelines teacher voice, for now.

The agenda for the BOE’s Thursday, Oct. 21 meeting contains no discussion or action items regarding school safety. Pandemic fatigue has set in for those who make decisions, but many of our educators have to live with their inaction daily.

Nowhere within the BOE agenda’s budget items is there any discussion or action on the restoration of 21 hours of job-embedded professional development with credits and pay. Nowhere within the budget items is there any discussion or action on addressing educator workforce stabilization payments that were vetoed by Gov. David Ige, but are sorely needed.

If the BOE won’t put our concerns on the agenda, we will make sure to be heard at their next meeting. Article IV, H. of our collective bargaining agreement states, “The Association may request items be placed on regular Board of Education meeting agenda in accordance with rules governing the conduct of the meeting.”

Informational picket in front of HIDOE and BOE offices this Wednesday

Oahu members, we need you! Please join me and bring your colleagues and any other supporters after school this Wednesday, Oct. 20. We’ll be in front of the HIDOE and BOE main offices at the Queen Liliuokalani Building on Punchbowl Street from 3:30 through 5:30 p.m. Wear your mask and your red HSTA shirt (or any red clothing), and help us send the message to the HIDOE and the BOE that we have a right to bargain for the safety of our schools.

Free parking is available one block away on Queen Emma Street at Keelikolani Middle School (formerly Central Middle School).

Mahalo for all you do and best wishes to you in the second quarter! For those of you on Oahu, please join us in solidarity this Wednesday afternoon.

Aloha,
Osa Tui, Jr.
HSTA President 

KHON: HSTA to file complaint against the state for failing to bargain over COVID concerns

HNN: Teachers union rallies at DOE headquarters over COVID safety concerns at schools

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