Hawaii teachers union files labor complaint over reopening

HONOLULU — Days before the first day for public school students across Hawaii, the statewide teachers union filed a complaint with the state Labor Relations Board over working conditions from increasing COVID-19 infections.

It’s the latest move by the Hawaii State Teachers Association fighting against the state Department of Education’s plans to reopen schools amid a pandemic.

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The complaint, filed late Thursday afternoon when the state reported a record 355 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, says teachers are being forced into hazardous workplaces.

Most public schools will start the academic year Monday with online instruction. The union is asking that all schools go online until at least the end of the first quarter.

Union President Corey Rosenlee said despite education officials’ announcements about starting with online instruction, many students will be coming to campuses starting Monday.

There are plans to return to campuses as needed next week “to connect with their teacher, receive training on distance learning platforms if necessary, and address issues with connectivity and access to technology,” Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said.

“The union’s misleading claim that ‘tens of thousands’ of students will be receiving face-to-face learning on campuses next week is a scare tactic that follows multiple publicity stunts to create further anxiety at a time when we need sound leadership.” she said.

Teachers told union leaders about schools’ plans to have students on campus, such as at Oahu’s Moanalua High School, where an educator reported, “500 students will show up each day next week, Monday through Friday, to attend all seven periods and homeroom.”

There will be teachers taking personal or sick leave to avoid jeopardizing their health and safety, Rosenlee said.

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The union is asking teachers to wear black on Monday.

“Black is the color many people wear to funerals,” Rosenlee said. “That is exactly what will happen if students and teachers meet in person on campuses Monday and beyond.”

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