Friday, April 6, 2001


Martha Burt watches fellow teachers at Farrington High School
walk the picket line this morning. The special education
teacher recently fell and broke her leg.

No new talking, just more walking

No negotiations are scheduled
between the state and HSTA

Strikes garner national
and world attention

By Crystal Kua

Our agriculture teacher isn't here. Who's going to milk the cow?

The Department of Education's strike command center fielded this and other questions from schools throughout the state on the first day of a walkout by an estimated 12,000 public school teachers.

UHPA HSTA strike logo As the strike enters Day 2 today, a resolution is nowhere in sight, as no new talks are scheduled and none took place yesterday. But both sides in this labor dispute say the start of the strike gave them a moment to regroup.

"Right now I think we need some time off, give the unions time to reflect on the issues presented to them," Gov. Ben Cayetano said.

"I don't think anyone expected us to settle it (yesterday). It's time to take a breath," said Hawaii State Teachers Association spokeswoman Danielle Lum.

The union reported that 118 teachers, or less than 1 percent of teachers, crossed the picket line, but the Department of Education said its figures come to about 2 percent, or 235 teachers, who chose to report to work.

Department spokesman Greg Knudsen said the discrepancy could come in the way attendance is being taken -- for example, whether to count teachers who are away on conference.

Picket captain Tim Roberts said three teachers crossed the picket line at Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate yesterday. "It's kind of hard. They have to do what they have to do, and we have to do what we do."

No major problems were reported. The governor hinted that the strike could drag on for a long time.

"The one thing that these strikes (are) starting to show to me is that the timing of these strikes is such that they may clearly impact the students in terms of them losing a semester," Cayetano said.

But after completing her first day of walking the picket line on Pensacola Street, McKinley High School social studies teacher April Nakamura said she will stay on strike as long as it takes.

"It's not something that I'd choose to do, but we'll do it if we have to," said Nakamura, her feet blistered and throbbing and her face sunburned.

Royal School teachers Gayle Tomokiyo, Cres Tom & Carole
Sodetani, from left, waved to motorists from the picket line
fronting their school on Punchbowl Street yesterday.

Her colleague, health teacher Clyde Ching, in the profession for 23 years, agreed.

"Nobody wants to be out here walking, but it says we're doing what we believe in," Ching said. "You've got to fight for what you believe in."

Both sides said they are willing to get back to bargaining.

The governor gave Davis Yogi, the state's chief negotiator in bargaining with both the teachers and professors unions, the day off yesterday because he was sick.

"My negotiator is tired. He needs time off," Cayetano said. "He's not feeling well, so I told him to take the day off. The negotiators for the unions know we are available any time. The ball is really in their court because they rejected our offer."

Lum said the union is currently reviewing everything. "We're willing to meet any time, anyplace."

The office of schools Deputy Superintendent Pat Hamamoto has been transformed into the department's strike command center, the hub for strike information.

The room is outfitted with computers, phone lines, a fax machine and maps of each school district showing the location of each school.

Personnel man telephones and computers, answering questions that come via e-mail or a phone call.

Technology through walkie-talkie-type cell phones is also helping the state office keep in touch with the districts and schools.

Hamamoto said the cow question was one of many questions that came from schools throughout the state once the command center opened at 4:30 a.m.

"It's an answer to help them either make a decision, answer a question or at least give them the reassurance that we can help them get an answer," Hamamoto said.

Also sitting in the command center yesterday was Deputy Attorney General Francis Keeno. Keeno helped answer legal questions or issues pertaining to safety or traffic, such as how long is too long to wait for a line to break up.

"There's one situation, a teacher was crossing (the picket line), she was by herself, she thought she was being forced to wait longer than the nonteachers who have to cross," Keeno said.

Security was also beefed up at the Liliuokalani Building, where the Department and Board of Education headquarters are located, with a deputy sheriff posted in the lobby.

>> HSTA Web site
>> UHPA Web site
>> State Web site
>> Governor's strike Web site
>> DOE Web site


Strikes garner national
and world attention

Star-Bulletin staff

Hawaii's shutdown of public education from kindergarten through college is getting lots of interest from the national, and even international, media.

"It's not making our state look very good," said Hawaii State Teachers Association spokeswoman Danielle Lum, hoping the national spotlight will help bring Gov. Ben Cayetano back to the bargaining table.

Lum said she and other union officials have been interviewed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, ABC News and the Associated Press. "I even got a call from a radio station in New Zealand," she said.

Department of Education spokesman Greg Knudsen said he, too, has been getting media requests from all over the country. "It's a big story."

Hawaii's plight is especially unusual, and therefore more newsworthy, because it is the only state in the nation with one school system vulnerable to a statewide strike. With the University of Hawaii faculty strike combining for an unprecedented statewide shutdown of public education, "it's obviously proving interesting for the rest of the country," Knudsen said.

Cayetano said that "any time you have a strike anyplace, it doesn't bode well for the business climate" or tourism.

>> HSTA Web site
>> UHPA Web site
>> State Web site
>> Governor's strike Web site
>> DOE Web site

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