Word on the street is that Governor David Ige struck a deal with UH President David Lassner to get the governor’s friend, developer lobbyist Carleton Ching, a job as UH director of land development. The price? Vetoing HB553 which would have given graduate student state employees the right to collectively bargain.
According to Civil Beat, about 1300 graduate students at UH Manoa have not received a raise since 2004 despite having their work loads increased. Section 89-6, Hawaii Revised Statutes currently excludes students from collective bargaining, lumping them together with prison inmates.
Graduate students have consistently pointed out that this exclusion violates their right to collectively bargain found in Hawaii’s state constitution. Article III, Sec 2.
In the last eleven years graduate students tuition had gone up, living expenses have climbed, and work load has increased but pay has remained stagnant.
Rep Isaac Choy sponsored HB553 which would have lifted the ban on collective bargaining by graduate student employees.
UH Vice President, Risa Ackerman opposed the measure saying it would cost the university more money and they were doing the grads a service by allowing them to teach and do research.
Graduate student Claudio Corti spoke forcefully about the conditions graduate student employees face:
The compensation scale for graduate assistants has not been increased since 2003/2004. Previously, the scale was increased every year from 1987/88 to 1992/93 and every three or four years between 1993/94 and 2003/2004. Policy set by President of the University of Hawai’i System has scheduled the next review for 2018.
Graduate student employees are rehired each year, and sometimes each semester, many students are afraid to complain about being overworked and/or mistreated. Loss of employment midyear could be devastating as deadlines for financial assistance are either prior to the start of fall or early in the fall semester.
Graduate student employees have no say over insurance premiums. Our insurance premiums are higher than faculty yet constituting a more significant portion of our salaiy. Moreover, we are not afforded sick days or family leave. As a result, sick graduate student employees risk being fired if they choose to stay home in order to avoid spreading illness to students.
Graduate students are an integral part of the UH system. We constitute a committed learning community, do important research, and perform a substantial proportion of the teaching duties. However, we are not afforded the same labor protections that faculty and staff are. We deserve to be treated equally, not abused and exploited.
Attorney Lance Collins was more blunt in responding to UH’s assertion that graduate student employees were being taught skills (presumably working for low wages is included in the skills being taught) so they should not be able to bargain for better pay:
Over the years, the University has stated that its purpose for graduate assistantships is to train and mentor graduate students for their professional careers. Taking collective action for the betterment of working conditions and collective bargaining should be included in that training. Being subject to arbitrary and capricious employment decisions and poor and abusive working conditions only trains graduate students to accept that such harmful conduct is a necessary component to academic life — when it, in fact, is not.
When HB553 passed final reading unanimously with Rep Ward voting aye with reservations and Rep Tsuji excused, UH president David Lassner reportedly begged Governor Ige to veto HB553.
Reports are that the Governor cashed in on his favor to Lassner – appoint his long-time friend, Carleton Ching, to oversee development of the University of Hawaii’s extensive property holdings — much of it crown or so-called “ceded” lands. It is believed the purpose of this UH position is to give Ching a government title related to land management so that in the future, his lack of such experience won’t be an issue.
Last time we met Castle and Cooke developer-lobbyist Carleton Ching, Gov. Ige was trying to shove his appointment through confirmation as head of Department of Land and Natural Resources. There was so much outcry, especially when Ching’s lack of knowledge of basic land and water use law became glaringly apparent, that Ige was forced to withdraw the appointment.
But Ige is nothing if not loyal to his long-time friends and subjecting the approximately 1300 student employees to continued voicelessness and exploitation (as they tell it) is not too great a price to pay to do his friend a favor.
On June 29, 2015 Ige announced his intent to veto HB553. On November 13, 2015 UH president David Lassner announced the appointment of Carleton Ching to Director of Land Development for UH.
Our question: Who was responsible for blocking an over-ride vote of this bill that passed with unanimous support?
Answer: In caucus, it was revealed that Sylvia Luke and Scott Saiki had made commitments to the governor that his veto on this bill would not be overridden in exchange for certain other bills supported by the House’s majority leadership not being vetoed.