UH Testing Mandate Begins August 23

The University of Hawai‘i administration has informed UHPA that they were told to implement Governor David Igeʻs Emergency Proclamation of August 5, 2021 mandating COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated UH employees to be effective beginning today, Monday, August 23, 2021.

Expect Confusion and Disruption

Due to the rush and short notice for the UH to implement Governor Ige’s Emergency Proclamation of a testing mandate, UHPA expects that campuses will have difficulty in rolling out and understanding how to implement and enforce this testing mandate policy.  As such, the UHPA staff will have all hands on deck this week to help guide UHPA faculty members on any questions and concerns relating to this policy.  Please feel free to contact the UHPA offices if you need any assistance.

COVID-19 Testing Sites on every Campus

While the University of Hawai‘i is currently trying to secure private vendors to provide free COVID-19 testing on each campus for all UH students, faculty and staff, we have received no updates and/or confirmation from the UH that such testing sites will be available on Monday, August 23, 2021.  UHPA recognizes that obtaining a COVID-19 test in the community right now will be challenging and difficult and has expressed these concerns with the UH Administration.  The UH Administration is committed to working with the UHPA leadership to address this fluid situation.

No Religious or Medical Exemptions

Again, there are no religious or medical exemptions that will allow a person to forgo the testing mandate.  Unvaccinated UH employees would be required to be tested. The only exceptions to the testing mandates will be for those UH employees who are authorized to telework or other UH employees who are not required and/or plan to be on campus.  If an unvaccinated UH employee is either called back to campus and/or plans to be on campus, they should plan to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before entering their campus.   

Linda Sawai retiring, Joseph Sam joins UHPA

Linda Sawai Retiring in December; 

Joseph Sam to Succeed Her as UHPA Associate Executive Director

A strong leadership team is critically important for the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. At every turn, there are new challenges facing UH faculty. UHPA must constantly be vigilant, anticipate what’s ahead, and be prepared to take action.

Linda is a Backbone of UHPA

Linda Sawai

Linda Sawai has been a vital member of our leadership team as an Associate Executive Director.  Hired by past Executive Director J. N. Musto in 1983 she has been the backbone of our organization, offering a historical perspective, depth of insight, and bringing strength and stability to balance the often frenetic pace at which we must relentlessly work to defend and uphold the rights of our faculty members. 

Linda has also kept UHPA in sound financial shape, responsible for all aspects of accounting and budgeting. Based on everything that Linda provided UHPA, it was extremely difficult for us to accept that she plans to retire at the end of this year.  Nevertheless, we respect her decision and we wish her all the best as she begins a new chapter in her life. She may not be involved with the day-to-day operations of UHPA in the coming new year, but she will always remain and be a part of the UHPA ‘ohana.  Regardless of whether she is not here or retired, we all know that she will be there for UHPA and a die-hard advocate of our members.

Words cannot fully express our deepest appreciation and gratitude to Linda for her nearly four decades of superior leadership, service, motivation, and for the positive atmosphere she has provided to UHPA and its membership.  Linda is an inspiration to all and a model of a dedicated and passionate individual who supports the labor movement and all of Hawaiiʻs working families.  This is a retirement well deserved and earned.

UHPA Welcomes Joseph Sam

Joseph Sam

As you can imagine, finding someone to succeed her was not easy. Fortunately, however, we have been able to lure Joseph Sam from Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) to join our leadership team.

Joe, a certified public accountant, will report directly  to Christian Fern and will be responsible for financial management, including budgeting, forecasting, and accounting to ensure the union continues to operate in a financially sound manner. Linda leaves big shoes to fill and having Joe on board now ensures there will be a smooth leadership and functional transition over the next four months.

Joe’s Extensive Experience 

Joe was a valued team member of HMSA. He served in progressively responsible roles at HMSA for 16 years, for the past two years  as Director of Government Programs. He started at HMSA in 2005 as Senior Internal Auditor, and was promoted to other key positions, including Senior Business Analyst and Senior Manager of HMO and Government Reporting.

We’re very fortunate to have Joe on our leadership team as his experience in financial management for large and complex organizations and programs will be an asset to UHPA and the faculty we represent.

Another UH Alumnus Joins UHPA

Joe is a UH alumnus. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from Santa Clara University and a Master of Business Administration degree with a Concentration in Accounting from the University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa. He is involved in the community and currently serves as the Treasurer of Helping Hands Hawai‘i and a member of the American Heart Association’s Hawaii Young Leaders.

Please join us in congratulating Linda on her upcoming retirement in December 2021 and welcoming Joe to the UHPA team!


Why we support vaccines and oppose bad management

The below op-ed was submitted to the Star Advertiser and a version of it was published on 8/15/21:

Why we support vaccines and oppose bad management:

By Liz Ho, Malcolm Lutu and Christian Fern

Hawaii’s public employee unions strongly support COVID-19 vaccinations. However, we do not support the emergency proclamation’s requirement to show proof of vaccination or be subject to testing. Gov. David Ige’s recent announcement leaves us perplexed about how the policy will work. We also object to last week’s announcement because he is setting a precedent for employers–public and private–to act unilaterally on decisions that are critical to the health and welfare of employees.

We believe in the scientific research that shows COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at reducing the risk of getting and spreading the disease. We also know that we need a large majority of the population to get vaccinated for life to return to normal. We know that each new vaccinated person makes a workplace much safer. For our members who serve the public, often with face-to-face contact, this is not just a matter of personal safety, but also a matter of keeping our community safe. 

For all these reasons, we strongly encourage public employees and all residents to get vaccinated, and we have taken many steps to support this process since the vaccines became available. Safe workplaces, healthy families, and making individual sacrifices for the good of all are three values at the very core of unions. We stand for those things more than ever during this crisis.

There is another value at our core. We believe employers, whether in the public or private sector, cannot be free to act as dictators over their employees no matter what the reason. In a true democracy, workers must have shared power, especially when it comes to policies that affect their bodies, their livelihoods, and their beliefs. Consultation and negotiation between employers and employees are crucial.

Weeks ago, knowing that COVID-19’s delta variant posed a dangerous new threat, we reached out to the governor and asked him to have a dialogue about vaccines. We were met with silence. That is when the governor made his newest proclamation and he was unable to answer questions on the specifics to explain how this mandate would work.

COVID-19 is a community-wide crisis. We need strong leadership and clear communication. Instead, confusing messages, shifting policies, and half-baked unilateral decisions are making this bad situation worse. Every member of the public knows this. 

There is a better way. Employers in the private sector like The Queen’s Medical Center and in other states like New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy are working with unions and employees to design and implement mandatory vaccine policies. What we are asking for is simple: Sit with the employee unions to negotiate a collaborative agreement for this policy. This means working out the complex details with the stakeholders before making more confusing announcements. For example: who pays for testing, what kinds of tests are acceptable, what about working remotely, what are acceptable reasons for not getting vaccinated, what are the consequences for not being vaccinated? No one wants to live in a world where one person can make all those decisions without even hearing from the people who will be affected, let alone working together on a solution that is fair and effective.

As representatives of the public employees, we seek to work collaboratively with the governor and mayors on policies that impact working conditions and fight this pandemic together. We cannot stand by and have ongoing confusion.

The leaders have an obligation to come to the table because it’s the law. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do, not just for public employees, but for the benefit of all the people of Hawaii.

Liz Ho is administrator of United Public Workers (UPW); Malcolm Lutu is president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO); and Christian Fern is executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA). Co-contributors to this commentary were Bobby Lee, president, Hawaii Fire Fighters Association (HFFA); Randy Perreira, executive director, Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA); and Osa Tui, president, Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA).

UH Testing Mandate Starts 8/23/21

The University of Hawai‘i has informed UHPA that Governor David Igeʻs Emergency Proclamation of August 5, 2021 mandating COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated UH employees will begin on Monday, August 23, 2021.

COVID-19 Testing Sites on every Campus

The University of Hawai‘i is currently trying to secure private vendors to provide free COVID-19 testing on each campus for all UH students, faculty and staff.

No Religious or Medical Exemptions

Typically, religious or medical exemptions allow a person to forgo mandated vaccinations. Since this is not a vaccination mandate but rather a testing mandate, religious or medical exemptions would not be applicable. This means unvaccinated UH employees would be required to be tested. The only exceptions to the testing mandates will be for those UH employees who are authorized to telework or other UH employees who are not required and/or plan to be on campus.  If an unvaccinated UH employee is either called back to campus and/or plans to be on campus, they should plan and obtain a negative COVID-19 test before entering the campus.   

The University of Hawaii is currently trying to secure private vendors to provide free COVID-19 testing sites on every campus for all UH students, faculty and staff to be tested.

Proposed Vaccination Mandate

The University of Hawai‘i intends to implement a vaccination mandate for all UH students, faculty and staff by the Spring 2022 semester.  A draft proposal has been sent to UHPA by the UH Administration. The UHPA Negotiations Team is currently reviewing and analyzing the UHʻs mandatory vaccination proposal.  As more information and clarification are obtained, UHPAʻs leadership will promptly notify the membership.  Please keep up with UHPAʻs Monday Report for the most up-to-date information on these important issues impacting UH faculty systemwide.

COVID-19 Testing Mandate for UH Faculty?

Caught by Surprise

When Gov. David Ige announced his emergency proclamation last Thursday, August 5, it caught many by surprise, including the public-sector unions. We had not seen the emergency proclamation until it was publicly posted after his press conference. We learned about the Governor’s intentions for the first time along with everyone else. There was no advance courtesy notification, even though the emergency proclamation affects all University of Hawaii faculty and all state and county employees. 

Productive Discussions with UH Administration Underway

Since the unions did not have the benefit of discussions with the Governor prior to him issuing his emergency proclamation, there has naturally been considerable confusion. The unions have been left on their own to figure out how to implement the requirements. Fortunately, the UH administration reached out to UHPA and productive discussions have begun. 

Issuing ambiguous proclamations is not hard; the devil is always in the details. Fortunately, the UH administration is working with UHPA to do the substantive, heavy lifting.

COVID-19 Testing Mandate

Based on UHPA’s preliminary analysis of the emergency proclamation, the Governor is imposing a COVID-19 testing mandate for UH faculty, effective August 16, 2021. To avoid the requirement for frequent, mandatory testing—as often as once a week—UH faculty have the option of being fully vaccinated. According to the emergency proclamation, these tests will be free. There is no need to prove medical or religious exemptions; the testing mandate applies to all those who are not vaccinated, regardless of their personal reason for not being vaccinated.

Disciplinary Action and Grievance Procedures

There are still many outstanding questions and concerns that need to be addressed. The emergency proclamation states the requirements “shall be enforceable through disciplinary action, up to and including termination.” UHPA believes the Governor’s exercise of his emergency management powers does not override or negate the 2021-2023 Unit 7 Agreement, including but not limited to, the disciplinary, grievance, and arbitration procedures as codified in the faculty contract. We are still in the process of confirming this understanding, More to come on this.

As UHPA’s discussions with the UH administration progress, we will keep you apprised.

Public Unions Issue Joint Statement On Governor’s Vaccine Policy

The Hawaii Fire Fighters Association (HFFA), Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO), the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), and the United Public Workers (UPW) released the following joint statement in reaction to Gov. David Ige’s plan to impose a vaccination mandate for state and county employees:

We strongly encourage COVID-19 vaccinations as part of our united effort to beat the pandemic and protect our community’s health. The health and well-being of our public employees, who have been essential during this pandemic, remain our top priority while we continue to keep vital government operations running every day.

The public-sector unions reached out to the governor’s office earlier this week to initiate discussions about the vaccine mandate, but our request was denied. We will continue to fight for open discussions about these important decisions that affect public employees, our government operations, and our community.

The emergency proclamation will impact our members’ working conditions and the employer must bargain those impacts with the appropriate collective bargaining units. Details on how tests will be administered, how results will be kept confidential, and how the state will fund this mandate will need to be negotiated with the state and we look forward to having those discussions right away. 

The collective bargaining process is premised on the foundation that a harmonious and cooperative relationship between government and its employees will better protect and serve the public by assuring the effective and orderly operations of government. There is no greater time in our history and existence that this process be recognized and honored.

UHPA Press Contact:

Nathan Hokama, UHPA
Strategic Communication Solutions
(808) 226-7470

Political Action Fund Objection

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) has an active Political Endorsement Committee that has participated in state & federal elections through political endorsements, contributions to candidates and independent expenditures on behalf of our endorsed candidates. The UHPA Board of Directors has taken action to allocate from the dues of all UHPA Active members an amount of $5.00 a month to be placed in a Political Action Fund. The Fund will be subject to the accounting requirements and used for purposes consistent with the Hawaii State Election and Federal Election laws.

Our policy allows Active members of UHPA to object to the $5.00 per month allocation to the Political Action Fund. This will not lower their total dues, but it will not add to the total amount of funds allocated for partisan political purposes with respect to candidate endorsements and contributions. If an Active member chooses to object to this funding, they will not be allowed to vote on any recommendation for candidate endorsements made by the Board of Directors.

The request to withhold funding from the Political Action account must be made each year. If you do not wish to contribute to the “candidate endorsement” fund for fiscal year 2022-2023, then you must sign, date, and return an UHPA Allocation Objection Form by September 12, 2022.

The UHPA Board of Directors has taken this action in response to the strong feelings held by some members that the union should not participate in making candidate endorsements or political contributions. However, we believe it is essential for a public sector union to maintain a political presence since the fundamental work of our bargaining with the State of Hawaii is ultimately subject to legislative approval.