Abercrombie vs. Hawaii Teachers: What's at Stake

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The showdown between Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the Hawaii State Teachers Association is a watershed moment in local labor history.

It likely centers on an interpretation of state law regarding an impasse in labor negotiations that has never been tested.

Should Abercrombie prevail in his view that negotiations were at an impasse, and that he had no other choice but to impose contract terms the way he did, it could strengthen the authority of a governor who is experiencing a rough first year in office and expand executive power.

Should the HSTA prevail in its view that the impasse was declared prematurely and that the governor did not act in good faith, it could significantly weaken the governor's influence as an employer, let alone a leader, and affect relations with Hawaii's other largest public-sector unions.

The showdown comes as battles between labor and state governments have escalated across the country, with governors — some of them Democrats — demanding, and getting, concessions on wages and pensions in order to balance budgets.

Here at home, more details will emerge this week when the state responds to the HSTA's 37-page complaint over Abercrombie's bargaining tactics — there are some 90 allegations — filed with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB).

The state will respond as well, as early as next week, to the union's request on Monday that the HLRB restore the pay cuts, health-care cost increases and furloughs that went into effect with the new fiscal year July 1. That document is several pages thick.

For now, here's what you need to know about what's at stake between the governor and the HSTA. Civil Beat's report is based in part on interviews with local labor and legal experts who were granted anonymity to comment on a sensitive matter they wouldn't otherwise discuss.

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