Substitute Teachers Seek Back Pay and Union Representation

article top

Last Nov. 29, 10 substitute teachers working for the Department of Education, and living in all four of Hawaii’s counties, filed suit (Chang vs. Hawaii) against the DOE demanding back pay from the state as required by law. The DOE has been ignoring a clear and unambiguous provision of the Hawaii Revised Statues that, since July 1, 1996, spells out the pay rates for substitute teachers. We are also seeking representation through Local 368 of the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LIUNA). Hawaii’s 5,200 substitute teachers are on-call, casual employees of the DOE. We work only when a regular teacher is absent from his or her job. We are paid a per diem rate — a fixed amount for each day we work. For the first semester of the current, 2002-2003 school year we were underpaid by $25.72 per day. For the second semester, we are currently being underpaid by $26.54 per day. A sub who works 100 of 181 school days — slightly over half the year — will be underpaid by just over $2,600 for the current school year. This is money that these teachers have earned, and money that most need to maintain a modest standard of living in Hawaii. HRS #302A-624(e) provides that ” . . . effective July 1, 1996, the per diem rate for substitute teachers shall be based on the annual entry step salary rate established for a Class II teacher on the most current teachers’ salary schedule. The per diem rate shall be derived from the annual rate in accordance with the following formula: Per Diem Rate = Annual Salary Rate [divided by] 12 months [divided by] Average Working Days Per Month.” For six years the DOE simply ignored this provision of state law and paid subs under its old schedule, which resulted in an even greater underpayment than we are now enduring. On May 8, 2002, Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto announced “a change in per diem rates for substitute teachers” that resulted in retroactive back pay for the 2001-2002 school year. But instead of applying this formula to the entry salary rate for a Class II teacher, the DOE applied it to the entry level step salary rate for a Class II instructor. The “Instructor” category, which carries a lower rate of pay than the “Teacher” category, did not exist in 1996. Chang vs. Hawaii simply seeks to have the DOE obey the law. In addition to being illegally underpaid for 6 years, substitute teachers receive no benefits of any kind, except for those few who are given a “contract” to cover a long-term absence of over 30 days. But the DOE often will hire a sub for 29 days and then make him or her miss a day before returning to work, just to avoid paying benefits. Here’s what subs miss out on that regular teachers enjoy under their union contract: *a.. Substitute teachers are not eligible for any insurance coverage through their employment. No health insurance, no life insurance, no dental or eye care insurance. Effective July 3, 2003, subs will have the same right to receive health insurance benefits as other state and county employees. However, the trustees who administer this law, led by employer-appointed trustees, have been attempting, through administrative rule-making, to deny subs this opportunity. Local 368 has been picketing meetings of the trustees. This picketing has been effective, and the rules remain unchanged as this is written. *b.. Substitute teachers have no pension or other retirement benefits available to them. *c.. Substitute teachers have no job protection of any kind. At any public school, we serve at the pleasure of the administration. If the principal or a vice principal decides a particular sub is not welcome there, then that is that. There is no right of appeal or of review. *d.. Subs have no paid leave of any kind. We have no paid holidays. *e.. Subs are not eligible to receive merit pay raises, or longevity raises. *f.. Subs are not eligible to receive unemployment compensation when they are laid off during scheduled breaks — Summer break, Spring break and Christmas break. Regular teachers are paid an annual salary over the course of a fiscal year (July 1 to June 30), and their salary continues over these breaks. *g.. Except for an optional day occasionally offered in July, substitute teachers have no opportunity to receive in-service training. Regular teachers have generous in-service training opportunities available to them. In June 2002, the DOE in a newsletter sent to all subs said, “Our new superintendent, Patricia Hamamoto, is leading the charge to hold high expectations for our students and to address the challenges we must meet . . . Professional behavior and good judgment are expected of substitute teachers . . . “As a substitute teacher, you are an integral part of the DOE team. Commit to your business of providing your very best efforts as you substitute teach each day . . . love your work . . . do the best you can and have students catch the learning passion from you. Some will say this is easier said than done, but it is possible if you are truly committed. The students and teachers will thank you for it!” The DOE is, of course, right to expect a high degree of dedication and professionalism from its substitute teachers. It should respond by paying us the per diem called for by state law, and negotiating appropriate fringe benefits. Hawaii’s substitute teachers are responding to a drive by Local 368 of LIUNA to organize them. This drive is led by Jimmy Kuroiwa, Union Representative/Organizer, whose wife, Patricia Kuroiwa, is a substitute teacher and a plaintiff in Chang vs. Hawaii. Any substitute teacher who is interested in seeking union representation should contact Local 368 in Honolulu at 841-5877, or by e-mailing Kuroiwa at ”David Hudson lives in Hilo. He has been a substitute teacher since 1990, and is a plaintiff in Chang vs. Hawaii. He can be reached at:”