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A Message from Wil Okabe as HSTA struggles with honesty of Governor

September 3, 2011
Okabe and Joseph

September 2, 2011
Aloha Colleague,
We began asking the Governor to return to the bargaining table two months ago. He responded by spending $50,000 to hire one of the biggest anti-union lawyers in Hawaii. 
In Hilo, retired teachers confronted him and he said on video that he was ready to mediate our contract. We responded with a formal offer to accept mediation on one condition – that if mediation failed, both sides would agree to binding arbitration conducted by a neutral third-party.
The Governor’s spokespeople said that the Governor’s remarks on tape were off-the-cuff and that he would not accept arbitration.
Now, teachers on Kauai video taped him again. And he says repeatedly that he’s been waiting to hear a counter-offer from us since mid-June – ignoring the fact that in mid-June it was he, not HSTA who stopped the negotiations. But more troubling was his failure to acknowledge that we made our counter-offer for mediation and arbitration formally and in writing.
The Governor has cleverly said he is ready to negotiate now – but he knows we are pursuing our constitutional right to collective bargaining, and his “offer” to resume negotiations two months after we asked him to will damage our legal case which aims to restore our rights. 
Teachers should understand that as president, I will negotiate on many issues, but never on our constitutional rights. It is my duty to protect those rights – not just for us, but for the next generation of teachers.
I will never be as good a politician as Neil Abercrombie. That’s his profession. But I will do everything I can for teachers. That’s my profession.   For me, that means not falling for word games twice.
The Governor didn’t want us to take his Hilo video remarks seriously. Now, he wants us to take his Kauai video remarks seriously. 
When he makes a formal offer to resume negotiations and does so in writing, we will consider it. That’s what we did after Hilo and that’s what he should do after Kauai.
Wil Okabe
Hawaii StateTeachers Association

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