[ TEACHER STRIKE ]
By June Watanabe
After talking the tough talk for weeks, about 12,000 public school teachers and 3,000 University of Hawaii professors began to walk the walk this morning when last-minute negotiations failed to resolve major differences in proposed new labor contracts.
Picket lines went up at 6 a.m at 256 elementary and secondary schools and 10 UH campuses statewide, affecting about 185,000 public school students and 44,500 college students.
Overall, picketing was reported to be orderly. The only major incident was reported at the UH Hilo, where professor Robert Fox was knocked to the ground by an impatient taxicab driver while Fox was passing out leaflets. Fox was not injured. The cabbie left the scene, but police have the license number.
"I want to emphasize no real harm was done. We hope people will be more patient and careful. We are certainly slowing people down but we are not in any way illegally blocking people or obstructing people," University of Hawaii Professional Assembly director David Miller said.
The unprecedented walkout by the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the UHPA shut down public education for Hawaii's elementary and secondary schools, closed again less than a week after Spring Break. Schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu said last night the schools would be closed at least through tomorrow. After that, the situation would be assessed and decisions made accordingly, he said.
Only six charter schools, which are allowed to operate with a degree of autonomy although they are publicly funded, were to open today as usual.
UH campuses were open, although most faculty members were on picket lines. Non-UHPA faculty, such as part-time lecturers, were required to report to classes.
HSTA members, many clad in green-and-white T-shirts reading, "Teachers Stand Together," circled public school entrances carrying "HSTA on Strike" signs.
MORE THAN 99 PERCENT of HSTA members honored the strike, said HSTA spokeswoman Danielle Lum. Of 12,515 HSTA members statewide, only 118 crossed picket lines, for a 99.06 percent strike participation rate, said Lum.
"We are confident that our teachers will stay out for the duration. They're in it for the long haul," she said.
HSTA President Karen Ginoza joined teachers on the picket line at Kauluwela School in Kalihi, which remained open during the HSTA's first and last strike 28 years ago, in April 1973.
The principal at that time met teachers offsite, put them in a truck and crossed the picket line, recalled Ginoza, who was teaching then at Nuuanu Elementary School. "There won't be a repeat of 1973," she said. "The teachers stand tall."
This time, all 31 of Kauluwela's teachers are striking, said Beverly Suzuki, picket captain.
No new negotiations were scheduled, Ginoza said, but had her cell phone just in case.
Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono also visited Kauluwela, as well as other schools and the UH, "I'm here because I care about our students; I support our educators," she said. "We need to have a fair settlement."
KAULUWELA KINDERGARTEN TEACHER Charlene Wall was picketing, while her husband, Ron Wall, a UH specialist in farm economy and human resources, picketed at the Manoa campus.
At the UH Manoa, three dozen faculty members picketed the entrance to the main parking structure off Dole Street at 6 a.m.
Police were on hand to keep traffic flowing, but pickets, heckling drivers with shouts of "stay home tomorrow" and "go back to the beach," allowed only two to three cars to pass at a time. Some drivers drove past with closed windows, others shouted "good luck, guys."
Carrying a sign reading, "State unfair to faculty," UH physics professor Arnold Feldman called the situation "a very sorry state of affairs." He accused the governor of being intransigent. "I never thought it would come down to this because of the tragic implications for the state," Feldman said.
"Everyone has been supportive even though we've been terribly inconveniencing them," said John Radcliffe, associate executive director of the UHPA.
"This is a bad situation and it's very unfair to the students," he said. "We exist for the students, but what are you going to do when you are the lowest paid people in the country."
Eric Cordeiro was among a handful students at the UH Manoa student center early in the morning. "I felt bad crossing the lines because I do support the teachers, but I'm still responsible for some of the credits I'm taking that are being taught by TAs (teaching assistants)."
Michelei Kikuchi, a senior set to graduate in December, said she is worried about a long strike, but supports the faculty because her father was a professor. Still, she said she had a hard time getting to campus because of the pickets.
At the UH-West Oahu, Melanie Nishimura, a clerk, was delayed a couple of minutes when she went through the picket line this morning. She remembers picketing when the Hawaii Government Employees Association walked out in 1994. "It's uncomfortable. It's not a happy situation for everyone."
Here's what went on at various schools today:
OahuTeachers at the two Manoa Valley schools -- Noelani and Manoa elementary -- wore green ribbons, symbols of HSTA's solidarity, and toted signs that said, "Why Ben?" "More pay for all teachers" and "I think this strike is for the profession." Others carried portable radios, listening for any updates on negotiations, which broke off yesterday afternoon.
"We wish it could have been avoided, but we're doing what we have to do," said Helen Edamura, 23, a fifth-grade teacher among the school's 30 picketing faculty members.
Her husband, Ken, is a secondary school art student at the UH who works part time as a photographer. With a new mortgage, the strike will definitely impact their budget. "We're making the sacrifice because we believe in the effort of the teachers," she said. "We see this as the best investment anyone can take part in."
AT ROOSEVELT HIGH SCHOOL in Makiki, HSTA picket captain Nancy Teruya, a 16-year English teacher, was organizing more than 30 teachers into picket lines, passing out signs that read, "Treat Us Fairly" and "Baby-sitters Get Paid More."
Roosevelt principal Dennis Hokama said the school has spent three months preparing for the strike. "All instructional activity is shut down, I don't expect many, if any teachers will cross the lines," he said. However, supervisors, cafeteria workers and security personnel were in today and will do maintenance and repair work, he said. At Castle High in Kaneohe, administrative staff who were required to report to work offered 60 picketing teachers coffee and donuts inside the school, but none accepted because it would mean going on school property.
"The main reason I'm here is that over the last 20 years I've been teaching, every time we've settled a contract, it's always settled in the state's favor because of the economy," said Cindy Jenness, a teacher in the peer education program.
Strike captain Alicia Rogan's sign read "Got milk for $1?" The point, she said, is to emphasize that while teachers have had the same pay for three years, the cost of living continues to climb. "I'm living on less and less every year and that's kind of hard," the art teacher said. She recalled that when she started teaching 20 years ago, there were multiple applicants for one position. Now when there's an opening, administrators are asking, "Do you know anybody who can fill this position?" she said.
At Windward Community College in Kaneohe, about 20 faculty strikers were positioned at each entrance, blocking through traffic, but letting vehicles through regularly, as instructed by a police officer.
"About 95 percent of the campus' faculty is not teaching today," said picket captain Paul Field.
The issue that galvanized Windward faculty to strike, Field said, was the state's proposal that those who teach nine months a year lose their retirement and health benefits during the time they aren't teaching. Even with a pay increase, that move amounts to a cut in overall pay and benefits and is unacceptable, said Field, a history professor with 10 years at the school.
Big IslandBig Island DOE superintendent Dan Sakai said schools will remain closed today and tomorrow, and that a decision will be made by Saturday whether any classes, particularly kindergarten, eighth grade, and twelfth grade, can be opened on Monday.
If any are opened, a decision will be made day by day whether to keep them open. Parents will learn about the decision in the news media, he said.
KauaiKauai Community College Provost Peggy Cha said no UHPA faculty crossed the picket line and she did not expect any to do so. Part-time non-union faculty still are scheduled to teach classes.
At Kauai High School, Principal Linda Smith chatted amiably with HSTA representatives on the street fronting the school. Because the school is on an isolated hilltop in Nawiliwili, the demonstration drew almost no public attention. One picket read the sports section of a newspaper as he marched.
At Kauai Community College (KCC), part-time lecturers who are by law not members of UHPA and not allowed to strike, were waved through the picket line , as were other nonfaculty employees.
Several UHPA members from the UH College of Agriculture Experiment Station joined pickets at KCC because they had no actual school at which to demonstrate.
All 83 UHPA members planned to picket today and Friday, said coordinator Jim McFarland who plans to set up shifts by Monday if needed.
Kauai County officials said 13 police officers and several supervisors are being paid overtime to provide security at all schools and the state office building in Lihue, where the DOE district offices are located. The police detail is costing the county $4,000 a day.
MauiPublic school and Maui Community College teachers reported no crossing of picket lines as of 8 a.m. About 99 percent of Baldwin High teachers were picketing this morning.
Baldwin agriculture teacher Lester Kunimitsu said he was striking because the pay for beginning teachers is getting worse, adding that his situation is only a little better.
Kunimitsu, 39, who has been teaching for 16 years, said he earns about $42,000 a year, even after taking more than 10 courses to increase his pay.
Star-Bulletin reporters Helen Altonn, Richard Borreca,
Gregg Kakesako, Gary Kubota, Diana Leone, Rob Perez, B.J. Reyes,
Anthony Sommer and Rod Thompson contributed to this report.
>> HSTA Web site
>> UHPA Web site
>> State Web site
>> Governor's strike Web site
>> DOE Web site
[ TEACHER STRIKE ] Last strike inThe last public school teachers' strike began on April 2, 1973, when 9,000 of them struck for 17 days. At the end, they received an 18 percent pay raise over a three-year contract. Ten years later, UH professors staged a two-day walkout in November 1983, although 30 percent of them reportedly crossed picket lines. The walkout did not budge then-Gov. George Ariyoshi from his pay stance, although a threatened UH strike three months later forced a renewal of negotiations. In the end, the professors received a 5 percent pay raise over two years.
1973 lasted 17 days
Public school teachers got an
18 percent raise after the strike
Department of Education*>> Teachers: About 12,000 represented by the Hawaii State Teachers Association
>> Number of schools: 256
>> Number of public charter schools: 6 (which will be open during a strike)
>> Students: About 185,000
University of Hawaii system**>> Faculty: About 3,000 represented by the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly
>> Campuses: 10 (University of Hawaii-Manoa; UH-West Oahu; UH-Hilo; Community colleges -- Hawaii, Honolulu, Kapiolani, Kauai, Leeward, Maui and Windward)
>> Students: About 44,500 (fall 2000 figures). Manoa, 17,148; Hilo, 2,873; West Oahu, 670; Hawaii CC, 2,098; Honolulu, 4,323; Kapiolani, 6,920; Kauai, 1,057; Leeward, 5,367; Maui, 2,661; Windward, 1,470.
Private SchoolsPrivate schools are not affected by the HSTA strike:***
>> Teachers: More than 3,000
>> Students: 32,500
>> Schools: 124
More informationTo find out more on the Internet about the teacher and faculty strikes, check these Web sites:
>> Department of Education: http://doe.k12.hi.us/strike/
>> University of Hawaii: http://www.hawaii.edu/strike
>> State government (Gov. Ben Cayetano): http://www.hawaiistrike.com
>> Hawaii State Teachers Association: http://www.hsta.org
>> University of Hawaii Professional Assembly: http://www.uhpa.org
* Source: Department of Education
** Source: University of Hawaii
*** Source: Star-Bulletin research
>> HSTA Web site
>> UHPA Web site
>> State Web site
>> Governor's strike Web site
>> DOE Web site