Thursday, April 26, 2001


Strike logo

Cayetano says
state gained in
labor contracts

Both sides did some tough
negotiating, he says

Crash course in politics

By Richard Borreca

Gov. Ben Cayetano calls himself "a tough negotiator," but after a three-week strike, he says the action forced important changes in how the state negotiates with public employees.

In a candid interview, Cayetano yesterday explained what he thinks caused the public education strike and how it will change politics in the state.

It started with labor unions extracting promises of support from legislators running in the past election, Cayetano said.

At the same time, Cayetano said his strategy early on was to force the unions to give something in return for their pay raise, a concept that was difficult for the teachers to accept, he said.

"If you take a look at each of the contracts, there is something in each for the state," Cayetano said.

"With educators, especially those in the public school system, they somehow feel that if you talk about accountability that somehow you don't respect them," Cayetano said.

"This state government has developed a culture in the workplace where those kind of questions bother people," he said.

Cayetano tried to avoid a clash by "signaling privately" that approving the HGEA's arbitrated contract would limit his ability to get concessions from other unions.

"Then I tried to air it publicly so people would understand. And then the teachers came on. I guess it took on a life of its own," Cayetano said.

But legislators begged off, according to Cayetano. He said they felt a loyalty to the unions because of the election-year promises.

So the governor switched tactics and concentrated on settling the negotiations with the United Public Workers, which has relatively few state members but had already taken a strike vote.

The outspoken and politically powerful union leader, Gary Rodrigues, was ready to bargain, Cayetano said.

"Gary is one of the smartest labor leaders we got," Cayetano said.

The state showed Rodrigues the budget projections, and he agreed to an 11 percent raise in return for cuts in vacation and sick leave for future hires.

"He is able to see long range, and looking down the road, he was able to give a little bit, and he could come to an agreement," Cayetano explained.

While the HGEA and its leader, Russell Okata, could not agree to changing the contract because it had already been arbitrated, Cayetano said, the union would be able to bargain and is preparing to sign a memorandum of agreement regarding changes for future hires.

The teachers, however, were unable to move because they were encouraged by the projected state budget prepared by the Senate, which offered the teachers everything they wanted, he said.

"They raised the levels of expectation so high, so many teachers felt they were entitled to that pay raise," Cayetano said.

"I tried to get HSTA to settle by offering them 14 percent, but it wasn't enough. Part of the problem was the people downstairs (the legislators)."

The teachers put on "a full-court press," Cayetano said, and were able to win the backing of key Senate leaders.

"When you pick off the key people, the rest say, 'Why should I fight for this?' I give credit to the speaker (Rep. Calvin Say), who played a wait-and-see approach ... and Rep. (Ed) Case, who said what was being done would undermine negotiations.'

"But it did make me look like some sort of stubborn, egotistical kind of person," Cayetano said.

When the teachers struck and were joined by the university faculty, Cayetano said he knew it was two different situations. He had been monitoring the mood of the university faculty because friends on the faculty were forwarding him e-mails from campus.

"It was amazing, like counterintelligence," he said.

Before the strike, he said, there was a raging debate among professors about the question of bargaining for merit pay.

But, Cayetano said, UHPA's settlement was nothing like the battle to get a deal with the teachers.

"I'm a tough negotiator but those teachers were also tough," he said.

In the end the governor said the state found it difficult to deal with the HSTA because its many committee votes on contract proposals made it hard to strike a bargain.

"HSTA tends to be more democratic, with everyone voting," he said, adding that the teachers missed having two former unions leaders, George Yamamoto and June Motokawa, on board.

"The last time we negotiated a contract, both June and George knew how to close," he said. "What they did was send the negotiator out of the picture and say, 'OK, we are going to close, and we are going to sell it to the teachers.'"

Now that the strike is settled, Cayetano said, there will be some political repercussions, but doubts if it will play a major role in next year's elections.

"You have people who say they will never vote Democratic again because of me," he said. "But I think these folks probably were inclined to be like that in the first place.

"Will it have an impact? Yeah, it will.

"How large? I don't think it will be that large."

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

Teachers complete a
crash course in politics

Experience with strike provides
insight into the political realm

By Christine Donnelly

Rank-and-file teachers likely will become much more politically active because of the just-ended education strike, the head of the teachers union predicts.

"That's one of the big things that has come out of all this: increased political awareness for every classroom teacher," said Joan Husted, executive director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

"They know which (politicians) gave them B.S.; they know which ones were sincere; they know which ones were purely political. It really was a wonderful civics lesson."

Striking teachers attracted various politicians to their picket lines pledging support and at rallies at the state Capitol. Classroom teachers, not just HSTA professionals, lobbied lawmakers, a few of whom were former students. "I know there were legislators who were very irritated by the pressure that was being put on them, but they need to be aware of the learning and enlightenment that has gone on among our teachers," Husted said.

The HSTA endorsed Ben Cayetano for governor in the past two elections.

While some teachers bitterly denounced Cayetano from the picket lines, others said they doubted lingering resentment would cause a wholesale change in the union's political leanings, which favor Democrats.

Cayetano, who has served two terms, cannot run for re-election. Husted refused to predict whom the union would support in the next governor's race, saying only that scrutiny would come not only from the HSTA leadership, but also from "every teacher that walked that picket line."

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

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