Substitute teacher
union vetoed

Gov. Linda Lingle believes
a bargaining unit would
conflict with existing laws

Gov. Linda Lingle has vetoed a bill that would have given all public-school substitute teachers their own collective bargaining union unit, saying the measure "conflicts directly and irreconcilably" with existing laws.

The bill passed both the Senate and the House with well more than the two-thirds margin that an override vote requires.

Legislature 2003

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"We'll have to talk about (an override vote) in caucus," said Rep. Scott Saiki (D, Makiki), House majority leader.

Senate Bill 1426, SD1, was approved on April 10 and sent to the governor that same day. The measure would create a new bargaining unit (14) for 5,179 full- and part-time substitute teachers of the state Department of Education.

The bill also allows members to strike if there is an impasse in contract negotiations.

House Labor Chairman Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa), in his committee review of the proposal in March, said substitute teachers provide a valuable service but are without any form of representation in the school system.

As a result, he said, these teachers "are treated like second-class citizens, at times being asked to clean bathrooms, make coffee and perform clerical services for permanent, full-time instructors."

Oshiro said unionization would let them bargain for better working conditions.

Substitute teachers earn $120 a day. The national average is $65. Nationwide, an estimated 5 percent to 10 percent of substitute teachers are unionized.

Lingle, however, in her veto message dated Tuesday, explained the bill requires the state to negotiate wages and health benefits for members of this new unit even though wages for substitute teachers are already set by law. Another law excludes part-time employees from receiving health benefits, she said.

The bill is also unclear as to whether it includes the 54,954 casual and part-time employees who work for the DOE. Lingle said extending benefits to these workers but not to similar workers in other departments has not been addressed.

And even if the new bargaining unit consisted only of substitute teachers, Lingle said it would be "problematic," given the various qualifications, status, work locations and actual time on the job.

Finally, the governor said, part-time teachers could lose existing benefits if they are reassigned to this new bargaining unit. That is because the DOE currently pays them at the same pay schedule as full-time teachers, and they could lose these benefits if moved into a unit for part-timers.

A recent DOE decision excludes substitute teachers without college degrees from the classroom, an action that has increased efforts to organize them into a union.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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