[ TEACHER STRIKE ] Striking teachersWith a contract settlement in hand for university professors, all eyes shift to striking public school teachers as negotiators for their union and the state resume talks today.
ask for 2nd
Talks resume todayBy Crystal Kua
And for many, that moment cannot come too soon as the strike by nearly 13,000 teachers heads into day 14.
"The strike's gone on too long," said John Friedman, president of the Hawaii State Parent, Teacher and Student Association. "It has been expressed to me by several parents that both sides seem to be hard head, stuck in their ways, unwilling to dig themselves out of the rut."
Negotiators for the state and the teachers union will meet with the assistance of federal mediator Ken Kawamoto at the federal building.
Meanwhile, the strike continues to keep all but the public school on Niihau closed as the numbers of teachers crossing the picket lines remain low. The Department of Education says 135 teachers went to work yesterday, while the union pegs the number at 126.
HSTA chief negotiator Joan Husted continued to complain that talks were being slowed because the state's negotiator, Davis Yogi, had to juggle negotiations with three unions at the same time. "Davis has to be able to move and concentrate on our bargaining," she said.
But Yogi said yesterday he can handle the pending talks.
Yogi negotiated last night's deal with the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. He is also involved in talks with the Hawaii Government Employee Association.
House Democrats also expressed frustration yesterday that public education has come to a halt while progress toward a settlement is at a snail's pace. "If that means, for example, that the governor designate another person to be an assistant negotiator ... then so be it," said Rep. Mark Takai (D, Waimalu).
While Democrats pressed both sides to resume around-the-clock negotiating until a settlement is reached, the more pointed rhetoric was directed at the Democratic governor.
"If the intention of the governor is to break this strike and break the spirit of our educators, we can't support it," said Rep. Brian Schatz (D, Makiki).
Rep. Roy Takumi, House Higher Education chairman, said state lawmakers have been besieged by calls, e-mails and letters calling on the Legislature to do something about the strike. "We reached the point where we think and I truly feel that all the affected parties really have to step up to the plate, particularly the governor," he said. "Enough brinksmanship - it's time for leadership."
House Speaker Calvin Say said money will be set aside in the budget to pay for raises. If a settlement comes after the session ends in a couple of weeks, the Legislature can call a special session, he said.
Friedman said the longer the strike continues, the more kids will become antsy, and the more parents will worry about their children's care, safety and education.
"Parents who have been allowed to are taking their children to work. Most parents are either trading days off of work or are leaving their children with family and relatives, or if they're able to afford it, day care," he said. "It's not an extended vacation any longer."
>> HSTA Web site
>> UHPA Web site
>> State Web site
>> Governor's strike Web site
>> DOE Web site