HSTA contract misleads, Cayetano tells"Is it OK if I use my glasses?" the witness asked.
The governor gets his dander up
with the teachers' attorney
By Crystal Kua
"You're the one on camera, not me," his lawyer replied with a chuckle.
Hawaii's governor took the stand -- a bit feisty at times -- to testify at a Hawaii Labor Relations Board hearing aimed at settling a dispute between the state and the teachers union over a bonus payment in the current teachers' contract. The pact ended a three-week teachers strike in April.
"Felt pretty good about it," Gov. Ben Cayetano said after his testimony was done. "I went there and I just told 'em our side of the story as I see it."
But a teachers union official was not as pleased with the governor's perspective.
"Obviously, we don't agree with much of his testimony, but that's not been surprising 'cause that's been true all the way, all the way through," said Joan Husted, Hawaii State Teachers Association executive director and chief negotiator.
The disagreement is over the time period a 3 percent differential is intended to be paid to teachers with master's degrees or professional diplomas.
The teachers union says the written language is clear and calls for the bonus to be paid twice -- during each of the last two years of the contract.
The governor, however, maintains that the written language is in error because the state only agreed to a one-time payment at the bargaining table.
Cayetano was the last witness to testify in the proceedings. The board is expected to issue a decision sometime after Dec. 3, when final briefs in the case are due.
Cayetano said that during negotiations he -- and not the state's chief negotiator, Davis Yogi -- had the final authority to settle the contract to end the walkout by teachers.
"That came as a complete surprise," Husted said afterward. "Davis Yogi never indicated at any point in time he didn't have the authority to agree."
Cayetano said that after the contract was ratified he did not realize there was a problem with the contract until mid-June when he read about a much higher cost estimate in a newspaper.
It was during cross-examination that the exchange became spirited at times.
HSTA attorney Vernon Yu asked Cayetano if it was his practice to not read the contracts line by line.
"That's not my practice," Cayetano replied.
After a pause and the start of another question, Cayetano interjected, "Can I tell you what the practice is?"
Yu replied, "I'd like to continue."
Yu also had Cayetano acknowledge that the governor had appointed all three members of the labor board and that two of them, Kathleen Racuya-Markrich and Chairman Brian Nakamura, used to work for him.
Cayetano, without being asked, said he chose them because of their independence.