One of the many political subtexts of the contract fight between Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the Hawaii State Teachers Association is that the HSTA was among the public-sector unions that backed Abercrombie in his primary campaign last year.
The HSTA and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly went with Abercrombie — a veteran labor ally — over former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the Democratic primary, while the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers sided with Hannemann.
Wil Okabe, the HSTA president, referenced that history Wednesday in a statement critical of the state’s decision to bring on a private attorney to help respond to the union’s prohibited practices complaint.
It is surprising that our Democratic Governor would hire an anti-union lawyer to represent him and the State against teachers.
The State calls Robert Katz “qualified.” If what you want is a lawyer with a long history of anti-union activities, who fought against Local 5 and hotel housekeepers, and has sought to restrict the rights of workers to a fair union contract… then Mr. Katz is indeed well-qualified.
Mr. Katz’s website boasts of experience ‘to help employers effectively respond to union organizing campaigns and election petitions.’
This turn of events establishes a pattern that we have long wished to deny – the Governor and his administration are behaving in a way unworthy of someone who came to unions a year ago asking for and gladly taking our help.
While we certainly don’t believe that supporting candidate Abercrombie would entitle us to special treatment at the bargaining table from Governor Abercrombie, we are surprised to find ourselves facing one of Hawaii’s preeminent anti-union lawyer as we struggle to protect our Constitutional rights to fair and honest collective bargaining.