UHPA Defends Tenure at the Legislature

Legislative Bill to Eliminate Academic Tenure for Non-Instructional Faculty Thwarted 


A legislative bill that would have adversely impacted the quality of education at the University of Hawai‘i — and affect the ability to attract and retain high quality faculty — has been put on hold. UH faculty can now breathe a sigh of relief — for now.

SB 1328 proposed to eliminate academic tenure for all “non-instructional” faculty based on the premise that their primary duties and responsibilities do not involve instruction with a commitment to student achievement and success and that granting tenure for these positions requires a long-term commitment of public resources.

UHPA Requested to Prepare a Resolution on Academic Tenure

Over the past several weeks, the UHPA leadership has been engaged in a series of productive and respectful dialogue and conversations with Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, the Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.  Based on UHPA recommendations, at a committee hearing last Tuesday, Feb. 16,  Sen. Mercado Kim deferred the bill and sought UHPA’s assistance to draft a resolution for the 2022 legislative session. UHPA plans to work collaboratively with the UH administration to develop a resolution for the committee to consider.

In its testimony, UHPA noted tenure for eligible faculty has been clearly outlined in collective bargaining agreements between UHPA and the UH Board of Regents since its first contract in 1975 and the subject of tenure is a cornerstone of bargainable matters under Hawaii’s collective bargaining law, Chapter 89, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

All of the other testimonies from both tenured and non-tenured faculty alike strongly opposed the bill including the University of Hawai‘i administration.

Dynamic, Multi-faceted Role of Faculty

Faculty also presented strong, compelling, and eye-opening rationale and reasons opposing the bill. Currently, Faculty are divided into different classifications based on their primary functions and some are classified with an “I” designation for “instruction.” However, these designations do not adequately and accurately convey the multi-faceted roles of faculty. Even if faculty are branded as “R” for “researcher” or “S” for “specialist,” they are still actively engaged in the instruction and provide a wealth of services and support functions focused on student achievement and success. This underscores that designations assigned to faculty do not truly reflect the diverse professional roles, responsibilities, and work they perform for the academy and the students that they serve.   

For example, research faculty mentors graduate students in the field or in laboratories, and specialists develop lesson plans, mix lectures with activities, discussion, and practice and work with distressed students or those with disabilities to insure their success. In this sense, all faculty are involved with instruction and significantly contribute to student achievement and success.

Miriam Stark, a UH anthropology professor, cited the significant contributions of faculty at the UH Cancer Research Center, UH Economic Research Organization, Water Resources Research Center and College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources that do not fit neatly into the definition of instructional faculty but overall contribute to student achievement and success.

Faculty also noted their roles are dynamic and ever changing to accommodate the needs and priorities of the university.  This makes the amount of instruction and service to student achievement and success fluid.

Purpose of Tenure

It’s important to reiterate the purpose of tenure: academic freedom for faculty. This is just as important for faculty members engaged in research as it is for an instructional faculty member. For example, tenure ensures faculty can engage in controversial research and instruction with impunity.

Another Potentially Overreaching Bill

In addition to the bill on academic tenure, the Senate Higher Education Committee also heard another bill (SB 1394), which would require that 25% of the UH research faculty’s salary be paid with extramural funds. The bill proposed to make it a requirement for all new grants,

contracts, and agreements that begin on July l, 2021, would have to stipulate that these extramural funds would be used to pay for the research faculty’s salary.

The intent of this bill was also a way to address the state’s budget, but UHPA pointed out that in the aggregate, extramural funding sources already make up more than 25% of the research faculty salaries. This bill was deferred and UHPA will collaborate with the UH administration to provide a report on this data.

Governor confirms furloughs on hold

On Friday Jan 15, 2021, UHPA received the attached PDF and we’ve excerpted the key message from the State’s Chief Negotiator Ryker Wada:

On December 29, 2020, Governor Ige sent a message to the entire Executive Branch notifying employees that due to the $900 Billion federal COVID-19 relief bill, there was enough direct support to programs in the State of Hawaii so that furloughs would be
delayed for Executive Branch employees until at least July 1, 2021.

I understand that President Lassner sent a similar message to the University employees on the same day.

This message confirms that Governor Ige intends to delay furloughs until at least July 1, 2021.

 

UHPA Sues Gov. Ige For Mandating Furloughs

The University of Hawai‘i Professional Assembly (UHPA), the union that represents about 3.500 faculty members across all 10 campuses of the University of Hawai‘i system, is taking legal action to block the governor’s plan to implement furloughs and a 9.23% reduction in pay.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court today against Gov. David Ige, State Comptroller Curt Otaguro, and University of Hawai‘i President David Lassner, seeks a declaratory and prospective injunctive relief from the furloughs going into effect Jan. 1, 2021, as mandated by the governor.

“Over the past several months, we have repeatedly pointed out that furloughs are unconstitutional and a violation of our existing contract, which remains in force until June 30, 2021,” said Christian Fern, UHPA’s executive director. “Since we have not had the benefit of a discussion to explore alternative solutions to the state’s budget deficit with the governor and his administration, we are resorting to legal action to challenge the governor’s legal right to override our contract terms, including his justification to use emergency proclamations to issue his edict on furloughs.”

UHPA has a successful track record of prevailing in similar situations violating employment contracts. In 1998, UHPA sued Gov. Ben Cayetano when the State enacted a law to change pay dates that were protected by an existing UHPA contract. The federal courts, both locally and on appeal at the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, agreed with UHPA. This prevented the law from being implemented and did not affect UH faculty for the duration of the contract.

“We are keenly aware of the congressional relief package earmarked for higher education and we hope this will avoid the need for furloughs during the remainder of the contract,” Fern said. “However, the governor has not shared how he plans to allocate these stimulus funds. Rather than wait and hope he will do the right thing, we feel compelled to take decisive action in the midst of the uncertainty created by the governor by filing this complaint.”

UHPA Stands Up Against Governor Ige’s Overreach

We are now heading into our tenth month of dealing with the health, safety, and economic effects COVD-19 has had on our state. It has been a difficult experience. It has upended and traumatically affected everyone. The pandemic has presented both health and economic crises that no one has been able to escape. The new virus has compelled us to think in new ways. We have all had to remain flexible and adaptable and open to new ideas as we venture outside the proverbial box.

During these unprecedented times, we need to rely on our government and our elected officials to help us navigate through this situation and eventually provide the pathway for recovery.  We recognize that Governor David Ige has broad powers to protect the health and safety of our citizens, especially during emergencies like COVID-19, but ordering overreaching and arbitrary decisions that have nothing to do with public safety will only exacerbate our situation and make our recovery much more difficult.

The Battle Begins: The Fight Against Furloughs is just the Beginning

There is no doubt that for Hawai‘i to return to a sense of normalcy, we must all do our part, including UH faculty. However, this will not be achieved by resorting to old ways that have proven to fail. That is why UHPA is strongly opposed to the failed past concepts of furloughs and is doing everything in its power to stop Gov. Ige’s ill-timed plan.

At the heart of this dispute lies our future and rights protected and guaranteed by the Hawaii State Constitutional under Article XIII, Section 2, which affords public employees the right to engage in collective bargaining. Gov. Ige’s unilateral implementation of furloughs imposed on Faculty members disregards and violates our current and active collective bargaining agreement that he agreed to for the duration of July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2021. 

Allowing such an overreach of political power would open the possibilities for Gov. Ige or any future Governor to unilaterally make possible changes to the Employees’ Retirement System protected under Article XVI, Section 2., assume power and control over the University of Hawai‘i under Article X, Section 6 through diminishing the authority of the Board of Regents, and possibly impact even our Bill of Rights under Article I. The negative consequences of allowing such overreach during emergencies by elected officials are endless and alarming.

UHPA recognizes that there will be difficult times ahead and hard decisions will need to be made, but the law requires the employer to obtain mutual consent from the union regarding wages, hours, working conditions, EUTF contributions, and other topics. Hawaii’s collective bargaining law requires engagement of its employees and mutual consent on mandatory subjects of bargaining such as furloughs, pay cuts, and retrenchment. Ultimately, UHPA membership must vote on these terms through ratification.

UHPA cannot and will not compromise our membership’s constitutional and statutory rights to decide their own personal fate and will not leave it up to Gov. Ige or any other elected official to decide for them.

Flashbacks from the Past

During Gov. Ige’s press conference announcing the furloughs, he said he consulted with Hawai‘i’s past governors, including Gov. Linda Lingle. That raised a red flag and rankled many in the community. Under her leadership, she initiated “Furlough Fridays,” which impacted Hawai‘i’s keiki and their parents. Her furlough plan also curtailed essential services that stalled our state’s recovery efforts during the Great Recession. Many valuable programs were decimated back in 2009, but the effects of those decisions are still being felt today, nearly a decade later.

As some may recall, under the Lingle administration, furloughs were just the beginning of her attempt to downsize government. In a punitive fashion, layoffs and budget cuts soon followed. Gov. Ige seems to be following the same playbook, already alluding to the need to look at layoffs.  We should forget the naïve notion that UH faculty should be willing to do our part by rolling over and accepting furloughs as the solution to our state’s budget challenges.  In addition, neither Gov. Ige nor the UH has ever figured out how to impose a furlough plan on Faculty without it just becoming a straight pay cut due to how unique the work Faculty members perform.

Do the Math

According to Gov. Ige, our state is projected to have a $1.4 billion shortfall over each of the next four years. Gov. Ige stated that the furloughs would contribute $300 million each year to be used to pay back a $750 million dollar loan for money he borrowed.  Gov Ige plans to keep the furloughs on-going for the next four (4) years which will eventually make public employees contribute an additional $450 million during this time frame.

Secondly, it’s obvious furloughs alone will not fix the problem. What will be next? The worst is yet to come and the battle is just beginning. Furloughs open the door to more edicts that violate our rights protected by the collective bargaining process and our state constitution. As history has shown, give governors an inch, and they will take a mile —wielding their emergency powers as they see fit.

Collaboration is Key

Taking legal action against the governor is not our preference; however, UHPA as well as the other public-sector unions need to stop his furlough plans based on the reasons cited above. We believe it’s time for everyone to work together and think strategically to move forward.

Throughout the pandemic, the need to collaborate and get through this together has emerged as the new mantra. Unfortunately, we don’t see Gov. Ige leading by example. Instead of developing innovative solutions, we instead see Gov. Ige reverting back to past actions that have been proven to fail.

Governor created chaos and confusion with furlough roll-out (joint statement)

One day after Gov. David Ige announced plans to furlough tens of thousands of employees in his state workforce, details are emerging showing the so-called plan actually isn’t one.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), and the United Public Workers (UPW) have learned that each state department director has been given a very short window to determine which employees to furlough and/or if an exemption should be sought with no guidance or parameters. Union leaders are hearing reports of confusion among top department heads about how they are supposed to roll out the furloughs. Additionally union leaders have been told that each department may be directed to implement furloughs independently from the other departments.

It’s downright scary that these are the people who are leading the economic recovery and essential services that affect the health and functioning of our state. The Ige administration should halt this ridiculous plan now before more damage is done to the workers, public services and Hawaii’s economy.

Yesterday, Ige announced in his news conference that 24/7 operations, first responders and public safety employees would be exempt from furloughs. He also exempted federally funded positions and departments that generate their own revenue such as the Hawaii Department of Transportation (Airports, Highways and Harbors Divisions) and the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Many state departments either receive federal funds or generate revenue which may make them eligible to opt their employees out of the furlough.

In another contradiction to his public statement on furloughs, state sheriffs and conservation resource officers are NOT on the furlough exemption list even though they are first responders and have law enforcement powers.

While Ige said Wednesday Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto would release furlough plans for educators, Kishimoto emailed a message to all Department of Education employees the same day that said, in part, “The governor’s Office of Collective Bargaining is the lead on these active negotiations; therefore, we do not have details of the specific impact to HIDOE employees at this time.”

All four unions have valid contracts in place and none of the unions have agreed to furloughs.

Announcing a drastic nearly 10% pay cut to workers though a furlough will hobble a key pillar of Hawaii’s economic engine—government workers—when economic recovery is so critical.

HGEA, HSTA, UPW, and UHPA collectively call on the governor to halt this ill-timed, poorly planned furlough implementation and to respect the contracts of tens of thousands of his dedicated employees.

A Bad Time for Furloughs

Aloha Faculty members:

This afternoon, Gov. David Ige announced his plan to unilaterally implement furloughs for state employees, beginning Jan. 1, 2021.  

UHPA is currently under a collective bargaining agreement through June 30, 2021, and has not agreed to the furlough plans presented by Gov. Ige. 

 

UHPA strongly denounces this plan, joining the other public-sector unions to make it clear there will be an adverse impact to our local economy, as forewarned by the University of Hawai‘i Economic Organization (UHERO).  

UHPA, the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) and the United Public Workers (UPW) jointly issued a statement to the media explaining our position that has been published on our website.

Furloughs are Counterproductive

At a time when access to faculty and classes are most critical, furloughs are counterproductive. Last month, UH-Mānoa reported having the largest number of incoming freshmen for the fall 2019 semester in almost 40 years. The flagship Manoa campus welcomed 2,184 first-time freshman class — the largest class since 1981, boosting overall enrollment by 3.1% to 18,025 students.

Increase in Overall Student Enrollment

Overall, there was a small 0.8% decrease in overall student count across all 10 Hawaii campuses this past fall, but this was a much smaller decrease compared to other universities.  Nationally, university enrollment dropped 3% and by 1.4% for public four-year universities, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Some community colleges also experienced enrollment increases: Kauai Community College showed a 6.4% increase and UH West O‘ahu also had a 3% increase in enrollment this past fall.  According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, community college enrollment overall declined by 3.2% this past fall semester over last year, but this was much less than the 9.4% drop for public two-year institutions nationwide.

UH: A Viable Choice for More Private High School Graduates

As a result of the pandemic, the role of the UH has become even more important for local families dealing with the challenges of the pandemic. Just under a third — 28.5% — of private school graduates in Hawaii enrolled at UH this past fall. There was a 20% increase in private high school graduates who chose to remain at home and attend the UH this past fall compared to a year ago. 

Other Key Highlights: 

  • Enrollment by Native Hawaiian students reached a record high since reporting started in 2005. Students of Hawaiian ancestry now make up a quarter —  25.6% — of total enrollment.
  • The proportion of students who are the first in their families to attend college also rose this year to 22.3%, the highest figure since that information started being tracked in 2015.
  • Despite the pandemic, faculty were able to rapidly pivot to new ways of safely delivering instruction without disruption. As a result, six of UH’s seven community colleges saw increases in graduation success rates, and five of seven saw increases in on-time graduation. UH-Mānoa’s on-time graduation rate has improved every year since 2006 and now stands at a record-high.

There is too much at stake to implement furloughs at a time like this. The UH is an economic engine in our state and plays a key role in workforce development. We must continue the momentum and build our road to economic recovery, not tear it down before it even starts. We must create a resilient economy and avoid the social costs of furloughs. We believe our state deserves better and we look forward to more discussions with the Governor to explore other solutions to the state budget shortfall.

Joint Statement on Governor’s Furlough Plan from UHPA & Hawaii’s public sector unions

Governor’s Furlough Plan And Budget Cuts Will Hurt Hawaii’s Working Families, Economy And Communities

The Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), and the United Public Workers (UPW) stand in strong opposition to Gov. David Ige’s plan to unilaterally implement furloughs starting in January 2021.

These furloughs and planned budget cuts, announced just before the holidays, couldn’t come at a worse time. Cutting pay for at least tens of thousands of government workers impacts their ability to meet financial obligations and spend in support of local businesses. Many public workers have already lost their second jobs in the tourism industry or have a spouse who is out of work, and now they face pay cuts.

These drastic cuts will carry devastating, long-lasting consequences, not only for state workers and their families. Mass pay cuts would throttle a key pillar of Hawaii’s economy — government — at a time when the tourism industry is still extremely weak and construction is slowing. This is a dangerous and badly timed policy decision that key lawmakers have publicly stated is not necessary at this time. A study released this spring found that every $1 reduction in state employees’ salaries would result in a $1.50 reduction in overall economic activity in the islands.

Under Ige’s plan, thousands of public workers would be affected, including teachers, educational assistants, custodians, groundskeepers, cafeteria workers, social workers, university professors, engineers, building inspectors, those who care for our most vulnerable populations, and hundreds of other positions. 

And it’s not just about workers’ pay and how their spending impacts our local economy; lost work hours during a prolonged furlough will negatively impact all public services provided by the government.


Our elected leaders must do everything possible to avoid repeating the devastating history of the furloughs in 2009 and 2010, when public offices and facilities were forced to reduce their hours, and some—schools included—closed for several days a month. The public had to contend with services that were eliminated or endure scaled-back or delayed services while our children were denied a quality public education.

Lastly, we question the governor’s extreme timeframe. History has demonstrated the deeply negative impacts of a two-year furlough, some of which our state has yet to recover from. 

This announcement is especially baffling when the U.S. Congress finally seems close to passing a stimulus package that could give aid to states and cities. Ige’s planned implementation of state employee furloughs is drastic and rash.

Hawaii’s four public unions remain committed to standing up and speaking out for our members, our local economy and the communities we all live in. Together, the unions will pursue all legal avenues to stop the unilateral implementation of these furloughs. 

Pay Increase Due in November

Negotiated 1.2% Retroactive Pay Increase Due November 20, 2020

In accordance with the Tentative Agreement over Article XXI, Salaries, of the UHPA/BOR Unit 7 Agreement, dated May 13, 2020, and the subsequent Legislature passage and Governor’s approval of Act 48, SLH 2020, the following negotiated pay raises are forthcoming:  

  1. Effective January 2, 2020 all Faculty Members shall have their base pay increased by 1.2%
  2. Effective January 1, 2021 all Faculty Members shall have their base pay increased by 1.2%

The State of Hawaii, Department of Budget and Finance, has released the legislative appropriations to the University of Hawaii for payment.  All Faculty Members in service before January 2, 2020 shall receive a retroactive pay increase of 1.2% of their base pay retroactive to January 2, 2020 in their November 20, 2020 paycheck.  All Faculty Members in service on January 1, 2021 shall receive a 1.2% pay increase to their base pay.

While this in no way signals or disregards that the University of Hawaii will be facing significant budgetary shortfalls and challenges in the near future, these negotiated pay increases were agreed upon by the Employer on August 3, 2017 and which the Legislature has already budgeted for its payment.

In Solidarity,

Christian Fern

UHPA Executive Director

Karla Hayashi

UHPA Negotiations Committee Chairperson

Update on UH Faculty Retirement incentives

UHPA Negotiations Committee Update On Proposed Retirement Incentive For UH Faculty

In a Letter dated August 27, 2020, University of Hawai‘i President David Lassner proposed to enter into negotiations with the University of Hawai‘i Professional Assembly (UHPA) concerning a retirement incentive to UH Faculty who are eligible for retirement or early retirement and who retire between December 15, 2020 and June 30, 2021.

The UHPA Negotiations Committee recognizes that this matter has significant interest to eligible UH Faculty and the committee members are encouraged by the Employer’s initial proposal. The UHPA Negotiations Committee members reviewed the Employer’s proposed offer and identified areas that required further clarification, as well as areas not viable to support such an endeavor.

On September 28, 2020, the UHPA Negotiations Committee submitted a counter proposal to the Employer’s August 27, 2020 proposal.  

The UHPA Negotiations Committee just received a response from the Employer on another counter proposal dated October 5, 2020.  The UHPA Negotiations Committee is reviewing the recent counter proposal and made this matter a priority.  We will keep the membership apprised of any new developments in the days and weeks ahead in hopes of reaching a mutually agreeable retirement incentive.

In Solidarity,

Karla Hayashi

UHPA Negotiations Committee Chairperson

Governor Ige warns of potential furloughs and pay cuts

Any salary reductions require bargaining

Yesterday afternoon, Governor David Ige met with the leaders of Hawaii’s six public worker unions, including the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

Because of the pandemic, Governor Ige said the state expects to be billions of dollars in deficit and that additional steps will be necessary to balance the budget.

We want to be absolutely clear and transparent. Governor Ige has not put forward any formal proposal to UHPA nor any of the other unions to initiate mid-term bargaining on these additional steps and it is not clear what the additional steps would entail. However, in addition to imposing further cuts to state departments, Governor Ige has put forward the possibility of furloughs twice a month to achieve a 9.23% salary cut for all state employees over a four-year period. Governor Ige wants those furloughs and cuts to take effect Dec. 1 of this year and use the monies saved to offset the budgetary shortfall on the backs of public employees.

Each bargaining unit has a set of unique circumstances and needs that would require bargaining and mutual consent between the parties to implement. Unilateral implementation would violate our current Unit 7 collective bargaining agreement, as well as our collective bargaining law, so terms and conditions for any reductions in pay or impact on working conditions for our bargaining unit members for this fiscal year would require negotiations with UHPA. 

In the meantime, UHPA will stand strong and in solidarity with the other public-sector unions.