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Hawaii Teachers Go on Strike

April 6, 2001

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HONOLULU (AP) _ Teachers and university professors picketed for a second day Friday, shutting down public education for Hawaii’s 180,000 schoolchildren and 42,000 college students, with no new talks scheduled.

The two strikes by 13,000 teachers and 3,100 university faculty members are believed to mark the first time labor trouble has paralyzed an entire state’s public education system.

Honolulu biology teacher Jackie Thuener said her only paycheck now comes from her second job _ working part-time at a dog kennel.

``All teachers I know have some other source of income. You cannot live on a teacher’s salary here,″ she said.

Hawaii teachers’ salaries, which average about $40,400, are 18th in the nation in terms of average salary but come in last when that salary is adjusted for cost of living, according to the American Federation of Teachers.

``Hawaii is worse off in the way that their salaries have not kept up,″ said Kathleen Lyons, spokeswoman for 2.6 million-member NEA, the national parent of the Hawaii teachers union. ``It’s the most expensive place to live in the United States, yet their salaries don’t reflect that.″

The Hawaii teachers union is seeking raises totaling 22 percent over four years, retroactive to July 1999. The University of Hawaii professional union, which represents faculty members at 10 campuses, is seeking raises of 13 percent over two years.

Both unions said the common strike date was unintended. The walkouts began after negotiations with the state broke down Wednesday. Classes were called off Thursday and Friday, and no new talks were scheduled.

``This is a day no one in the state wanted to see, and a day we tried very hard to avoid,″ Gov. Ben Cayetano said.

The last strike by Hawaii’s teachers was in 1973 and lasted 19 days. University professors staged a two-day walkout in 1983.

Holly Soria, a Spanish teacher in Honolulu, said several colleagues have left for higher-paying teaching careers on the mainland. But she said moving is out of the question.

``I love it here. I love the people. I love the kids. I love the culture. And I love to share my life experiences with the kids here,″ she said.


On the Net:

State government sites on strike: http://www.hawaiistrike.com

State Department of Education: http://doe.k12.hi.us

Hawaii State Teachers Association: http://www.hsta.org

AFT rankings: http://www.aft.org//research/