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Politics // The Right Price
Larry Price

Hawaii’s Strong Teachers Union

Pundits are still trying to figure out what happened in the general election. There are lots of theories and lots of boasting by government leaders about how terrific the Democratic Party did in rallying its forces to keep control of government and the world of finance.

So the Democrats won. Now what?

There is little question that the strength of unity is the only way to fight back against the anti-government and anti-union forces that appear dead set on dismantling many of the vital programs and services that public employees have enjoyed for years.

In the president’s other home state, Chicago, 26,000 teachers participated in the first major school walkout there in more than 25 years. Chicago schools reopened Sept. 19 after they approved a new pact that covers three years with the option for a fourth, which also provided 17 percent raises over four years.

Beware. For more than a year Hawaii State Teachers Association has been locked in a “go-nowhere” negotiation. If no one is watching, what’s going to happen next will affect the future of public education in Hawaii. The tension is building because teachers are working under a “last best offer” from the governor. HSTA filed a petition asking the Hawaii Supreme Court to order the state Labor Relations Board to issue a decision on its complaint against the state.

What happened?

Nothing.

A federal mediator was assigned, but the agreement was violated by the governor when he issued a unilateral statement to the meeting without jointly including HSTA.

One thing the general election proved is that unions can still move mountains if they have unity, and the word is they do. Thomas B. Fordham Institute for advancing educational excellence recently released the most comprehensive analysis of American teacher unions’ strength ever conducted. Its findings should shake the cobwebs out of our state negotiators. It was published several weeks after the contentious Chicago strike, and days before the general election.

Its findings are scary for Hawaii. It says Hawaii’s teachers union is the “strongest” in its report card and ranked No. 1 in terms of union power and influence: http://www.edexcellence.net/publications/how-strong-are-us-teacher-unions.html.

It may be time for Hawaii’s government leaders to settle with the HSTA or risk embarrassing the president’s first home state.

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