Pubdate: Sun, 18 Oct 2009
Source: Honolulu Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2009 The Honolulu Advertiser
Author: Michael Tsai, Staff Writer


With Furlough Fridays starting this week, the ongoing battle over
random drug testing for Hawaii public school teachers remains
effectively deferred, both in spirit and the letter of the freshly
ratified Hawaii State Teachers Association contract with the state.

The current agreement does allow for drug and alcohol testing based on
"reasonable suspicion," but says that random testing could only begin
when and if it is ruled "constitutionally permissible" by the courts.

According to a memorandum of understanding between the state and HSTA,
the random testing, if deemed permissible, would need to comply with
the U.S. Department of Transportation rules on drug and alcohol
testing and/or state Department of Health rules on substance-abuse

Given the length of time it could take for the courts to issue a final
ruling and for testing procedures to be established, it is possible,
even likely, that random testing will not begin before the contract
expires in 2011.

"The Hawai'i State Teachers Association has always been committed to
reaching a drug-testing agreement that does not violate the
Constitution," said HSTA president Wil Okabe. "We have always been
prepared to implement testing for teachers where there is reasonable
suspicion of drug or alcohol use, and we agreed to this in the current
contract. The state and HSTA have agreed to await the court's decision
on the constitutionality of random suspicion-less drug testing and
have agreed to abide by the court's decision."

In the previous two-year contract, which began on July 1, 2007, and
expired in June 30 of this year, teachers were given an 11 percent
wage increase in exchange for agreeing to random drug testing.

However, HSTA officials said that while in the process of negotiating
the terms of the testing, constitutional and privacy issues were
raised that indicated the state and union could be vulnerable to legal
challenges should the testing proceed.

The testing was to have begun in June 2008. To date, no teacher has
yet been tested.

In July 2008, the HSTA asked the Hawaii Labor Relations Board for a
declaratory ruling on the legality of random drug testing for
teachers. The board dismissed the petition, saying it lacked
jurisdiction in the matter.

The union subsequently appealed the dismissal and the case is
currently awaiting hearing in Circuit Court.

Also in July 2008, the state filed a grievance with the Labor
Relations Board seeking to compel the teachers to abide by the
contract. The board has yet to rule on the complaint.

"(HSTA) has the right to challenge if they feel they have a basis to
challenge, but our position is the same as it's been from the start:
The contract was agreed upon and ratified by their members and they
should do what they promised to do," said Marie Laderta, director of
the state Department of Human Resource Development.

"The time to negotiate is before you sign the contract," Laderta said.
"You don't go back and try to renegotiate what has already been agreed
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr