Hawaii Teachers And Chicago Strike

If you were wondering how crazy things can get during a collective bargaining situation, you don’t have to look any further than Chicago.

As I write, its teacher strike is going into its fourth day, with no end in sight. The Chicago teachers have given up on negotiating and are out picketing.

Meanwhile, Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) is still mulling over the evidence before it.

There are many similarities between the two unions, including membership in, and support of, the National Education Association (NEA).

And Hawaii and Chicago teachers share similar concerns – first is a new evaluation process for teachers, second is a policy on rehiring teachers who have been laid off.

Hawaii’s teachers lost some wages and benefits, and are tied up in a legal argument over a “last, best, final” offer. Teachers in Chicago and in Hawaii contend they have made compromises, and that it’s time for the government to do the same.

The teachers, no matter where they are, are a tight-knit group, and Hawaii’s taxpayers should hope Hawaii doesn’t follow the teachers in Chicago.

It’s obvious that once the media get involved, the union loses. They hope to negotiate in the court of public opinion with the most frightening demands by labor, such as asking for a 15 percent raise on top of their already nation-leading salaries of around $74,000.

And that figure doesn’t take into account benefits, which are very generous.

Additional pressure comes from the 100,000 or more students with no one to care for them during the school day. There also is the question of the free lunch program and, in some cases, breakfast for underprivileged students. Some of the schools have had to open for five or six hours a day just to feed the needy students.

It is not a good situation, and probably more important, it’s not a good example for public education in the United States.

It would be better if there was a work environment in which grievances didn’t occur in the first place. We have plenty of seasoned leaders to recognize, diagnose and correct the causes before they become large, formal grievances.

HSTA has been fighting with government negotiators for more than a year. It’s time for the state, union leaders and judiciary to settle their grievances before they lead to a prolonged strike.

Editor’s note: As MidWeek was going to press, CNN reported an agreement was near and that students could be back in classrooms by Sept. 17.