The ACLU Drug-testing Challenge

Larry Price
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Wednesday - September 26, 2007
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The Hawaii State Teachers Association and the state earlier this year agreed to a contract that would allow random drug testing of teachers, librarians and administrative workers in the public school system. The proposal was narrowly approved by union members. On the bright side, the policy is the first of its kind in the nation.

The American Civil Liberties Union plans a legal challenge, and is actively seeking people who want to be part of the lawsuit.

Two premises are central to the content of this proposed lawsuit. The first is that unionization and collective bargaining in the public sector represent one of the most important developments in labor relations since the Wagner Act of the 1930s.


The significance of this development is derived from the magnitude and success of organizing efforts in the public sector. Reflecting democratic social values, the second premise is that three types of rights exist in the collective bargaining process. The first is that participants be allowed to engage in free collective negotiations without external exposure of, or interference with, what might be considered sensitive interpersonal communities, and conflicts often arise when groups affected by the process exercise their respective rights, particularly in the realm of employment in the public sector.

The success of collective bargaining depends largely on the privacy and insulation of labor and management, whereas the social effectiveness of political democracy exists only when citizens know the issues and have substantial means to influence decisions that are related to their health, safety and welfare.

In exercising their right to inform the citizenry about collective bargaining in the public sector, the media have been instrumental in contributing to the incompatibility of pragmatic benefits associated with the right of privacy in collective bargaining, and the right of the public to know the facts occurring in the decision-making process of collective bargaining.

Simply put, the public has a right to know what is going on in collective bargaining in the public sector. It is in the context of this potential incompatibility between the media constituency on the one hand and labor and management constituencies on the other with reference to collective bargaining in the public education sector of the state of Hawaii that creates concern.

In a complementary vein, one has to ask how effective reporters and commentators in the media have perceived individuals in labor and management to be in enhancing awareness of the general public about relevant issues in collective bargaining in the public education sector?


It should be pointed out that the government bureaucracy is often a complex business which few individuals understand.

Some parents suspect that collective bargaining may in some way be at least partially responsible for both the decline in standardized test scores and the increase in education costs.

There have been many academic studies on that suspicion. The consensus suggests that public sector collective bargaining in public education has minimal effect on the learning environment. The potential negative influences ultimately are balanced by the probable positive effects. For instance, although rising personnel costs may result in fewer supplementary learning resources for students, at the same time teachers may be happier and more effective than they were previously, and aides and specialists may become more plentiful.

Simply put, there is concern that collective bargaining has blunted the public influence on the conduct of the educational enterprise. What many people don’t understand is that collective bargaining is a form of lawmaking. Traditionally, the way in which resources are allocated and policies are adopted have been considered as part of the political process.

This is a process that has no need for ACLU services. The ACLU’s project does not contribute to the heightened societal awareness of key factors in the collective bargaining process in the public education sector, and should be ignored by professional teachers who do not use drugs to perform their duties in the classroom.

If you want to be part of the ACLU lawsuit, contact person is Mr. Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project, which will assist the state chapter in pursuing its lawsuit, which will be filed in federal court when they attract enough prospective plaintiffs. There will be a series of statewide meetings on all the islands, beginning with Maui and ending on Oahu Oct. 3, 2007. All of the meetings are from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 522-5906 or see www.aclu.org/teachersjoinus.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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