Blame Union Leaders, Not Teachers

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - August 13, 2008

It appears the HSTA leadership could use a drug test themselves, based on their recent statements and actions.

The union, with 60 percent of its members in agreement, accepted random drug testing for teachers in June 2007. Yes, there were some who were concerned with the process and implications.

But when the time came to decide to accept or reject the proposal, the majority of HSTA members said yes. A year later, the HSTA is doing everything in its power to renege on this agreement.

It should be noted that the state negotiated the latest contract with a previous administration in the HSTA. Joan Husted, former executive director of the HSTA, consented to the terms of the contract and brought the proposal to the membership. It was clear, based on her upstanding reputation, that the terms of the agreement would be met. However, between the time the contract was ratified and the time the drug testing was to commence, a change of HSTA leadership took place. Former state senator and television executive Mike McCartney replaced Husted and this, according to Gov. Linda Lingle, is where the difficulties began.

The contract agreed to by HSTA states that the Board of Education and the union to “establish a reasonable suspicion and random drug and alcohol testing procedures applicable to all Bargaining Unit 5 (teachers) ... and implement such plan no later than June 30, 2008.” We are in the middle of August and, as of this writing, there is no indication the HSTA is prepared to honor this agreement.

If reneging on an agreement weren’t bad enough, the justifications for doing so are ridiculous. The HSTA suggests that the only teachers subject to a random drug test be those teachers who hold a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). It is an asinine statement. First of all, there are no teachers who hold a CDL in line with their duties as a teacher. Second of all, the state has been randomly drug testing employees with a CDL for more than 13 years in compliance with federal law.

HSTA leadership is clearly taking a disingenuous position in resisting compliance to a contractual obligation they already agreed to. However, the union sure isn’t having a problem accepting the financial terms of the contract. Teachers have received most of the negotiated pay increases up to 11 percent.

If the HSTA truly had an issue with constitutionality of the random drug testing provision, over a year has passed and this is the first formal objection to the agreement. Where were the concerns at the time of negotiation? Where were the objections during the deliberation process? Where was the opinion of the HSTA legal team in reviewing the terms and conditions?

For the HSTA to pull these tactics based on such a specious argument, it reveals the leaderships true priority - itself.

Think I’m being too harsh on the HSTA? Consider this. In its recent newsletter, “Teacher Advocate,” a question posed to the leadership asked, “Why can’t we just agree to random drug testing of all teachers?” The answer provided by the union is, “Here are some historical examples of how constitutional rights have been at risk before: Japanese internment during WWII; 120,000 Japanese-Americans were forcefully detained in camps from 1942-45.”

They’ve got to be joking. Those who were interned never had a vote as to whether or not they were to be forcibly thrown into internment camps! The HSTA had the opportunity to negotiate, vote and agree. To equate the two is a slap in the face of all individuals and families who truly did have their constitutional rights violated.

The real damage caused by the HSTA is the reputations of teachers stand to be tarnished by their union. I want to make it clear that the actions of the HSTA leadership should in no way be a reflection on the dedicated and talented teachers in our community.

The men and women who are in the classroom and serving in other positions are not to blame for this embarrassment.

But the rank and file will have to look within themselves and decide whether the current leadership of the HSTA is serving them or simply serving themselves.

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