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SB 410 Designed to Raise the Bar of Accountability

By UHPA bargaining team: UHPA President Lynne Wilkens, UHPA Bargaining Team Chair Karla Hayashi, Amy Nishimura, Glenn Teves and Matthew Tuthill

Who’s accountable?

When the University of Hawai‘i (UH) leadership gets itself in deep kimchee and manages to grab the headlines, alumni and others cringe. It’s the same pattern: legislators start to ask questions and restrict funding that unfortunately affects programs, faculty and, most importantly, students and research that benefits our state.

Do we cry afoul? No. Does anyone demand heads roll? No. There is no accountability. Instead the issues are quietly swept under the rug. UH administrators are deftly shifted to another comparable position and salary within the UH system. The back-up plan often is to hire yet another chancellor to further inflate the University of Hawaii’s administrative payroll.

Has anyone wondered how UH administrators fare as employers?

The UH administrators that have difficulty managing programs and facilities are the same ones who make up their own rules to govern faculty. These are the faculty that teach our students and collectively bring in more than $350 million in non-state funding to conduct research each year.

There’s always another side to the story. SB 410 has a distinct purpose. It was designed to raise the bar of accountability on employers and improve relationships in the workplace. Framing SB 410 as an uprising of unions is a way to divert attention away from these facts.

For University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), we know there are many in the community who empathize with the dilemma we face. Although we have joined our brothers and sisters in the other public-sector unions, most legislators and others are familiar with the challenges we face on the 10 UH campuses statewide.

While it easy to promote fear-mongering that SB 410 will somehow “tip the balance” in favor of unions and give them unprecedented power that will “interfere” with relationships between management and employees, we urge those in the Governor’s office to think carefully and do their homework.

We can point to numerous cases of erosion of legitimate faculty rights.

A recent case involved a faculty renowned for his breakthrough medical research, who was recruited from another university with the promise of certain technical equipment to build a similar program at the University of Hawaii. This was spelled out in his letter of hire. After relocating and moving his family here, the UH changed its mind and argued a letter of hire was not included in the collective bargaining process. In other words, what was promised in the letter to him didn’t count. Talk about hair-raising. Insane. Not acceptable. It’s time to put aloha back in the workplace.

Defend mediocrity or improve higher education?

Who Governor David Ige hires, and who he chooses to discipline is strictly his prerogative. It is not our place to tell him how to run his state departments. However, if he vetoes SB 410, it will be a clear indication he defends mediocrity in our state — hardly the quality we want in a leader. SB 410 will allow UHPA faculty to continue to provide quality higher education, research, and community service to the people of Hawai‘i.