Teachers listen to new pitch about old contract offer

Published: May. 8, 2012 at 1:53 AM HST|Updated: May. 8, 2012 at 3:27 AM HST
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Shannon Kaaa
Shannon Kaaa
Sharma Stewart
Sharma Stewart
M.J. Matsushita
M.J. Matsushita

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii State Teachers Association launched a series of meetings on Monday about the contract offer its members previously rejected. There is one major difference this time. According to the union, a "no" vote equals a strike authorization.

Nearly four months after rejecting a tentative agreement, HSTA members are being asked to reconsider the old offer. The union admits it made a mistake by rushing the ratification vote.

"I'm sure everybody would want more, but in consideration of the economy and the outlook, we really feel that this is a good agreement," said HSTA board member Shannon Kaaa. "We're hoping that with more information the teachers will vote 'yes.'"

Educators shot down the six-year deal in January. The plan didn't allow for pay hikes until next summer, and the raises would be tied to new performance evaluations that have yet to be defined. Teachers seemed to be split on whether new discussions would lead to a different result.

"If the teachers get the information they need at these meetings, then perhaps," said Kaimuki High School teacher Sharma Stewart.

"I think it's a waste of our time and it's not going to change. The vote is not going to change," said M.J. Matsushita of Kaimuki High School's Performing Arts Center.

While the proposed contract language is the same, there will be a key difference when it's time to fill out a ballot. Rejecting the contract will effectively authorize a strike, according to HSTA officials.

"I've never actually been involved in a strike and just to read about all this could possibly mean a strike scares me," said Stewart.

"Nobody wants to strike so we hope that's not where we have to go with this, but it's really important for the union to stay strong as one," Kaaa said.

The union hopes that securing a deal will help protect a $75-million Race to the Top grant, but Governor Neil Abercrombie has said the contract offer has no legal standing and is now off the table.

"We hope that he will reconsider it because at the time, the governor did agree to it, and we feel that taking this back out at this point because we're not getting anywhere in negotiations," Kaaa explained.

The statewide informational meetings run through May 15. A re-vote will be scheduled for sometime after the last session.

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