UH grad stu­dents urge law change to en­able union

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - VIEWS & VOICES - By Jonathan Dial and Nick Chagnon

Up­hold­ing the constitutionality of the state’s laws is one of the key obli­ga­tions of the gov­er­nor. By pos­si­bly with­hold­ing the right to col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing from the grad­u­ate as­sis­tants at the Univer­sity of Hawaii, Gov. David Ige is in jeop­ardy of do­ing just the op­po­site. As stated by Ar­ti­cle XIII, Sec­tion 2 of the Hawaii State Con­sti­tu­tion: “Per­sons in pub­lic em­ploy­ment shall have the right to or­ga­nize for the pur­pose of col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing as pro­vided by law.”

Grad­u­ate stu­dents at UHManoa pro­vide crit­i­cal ser­vices to the univer­sity and the state of Hawaii, yet the UH ad­min­is­tra­tion has con­sis­tently dis­played a not-so-be­nign ne­glect of our wel­fare. Un­for­tu­nately, it ap­pears that the gov­er­nor may now be join­ing it. The grad­u­ate stu­dent body at UH is in­cred­i­bly di­verse and comes from within the state, around the coun­try, and all over the globe. We are ex- pected to teach cour­ses, men­tor un­der­grad­u­ates, vol­un­teer in the com­mu­nity, and con­duct re­search that vastly con­trib­utes to mak­ing UH a great aca­demic in­sti­tu­tion.

In re­turn, we are paid wages near the poverty level and treated as ex­pend­able work­ers. Be­cause of this his­toric mis­treat­ment, grad­u­ate stu­dents at UH-Manoa lob­bied for House Bill 553, which would change Hawaii Re­vised Statute 89-6, the law that cur­rently denies us our con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed rights to col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing. In a his­toric move, the state Leg­is­la­ture passed the bill al­most unan­i­mously. Sur­pris­ingly, de­spite this over­whelm­ing show of sup­port for grad­u­ate as­sis­tants from the Leg­is­la­ture, Gov. Ige is threat­en­ing to veto the bill.

The gov­er­nor ar­gues that is­sues re­gard­ing grad­u­ate stu­dent work­ing con­di­tions should be han­dled by the UH ad­min­is­tra­tion and Board of Re­gents. His­tory, on the other hand, be­lies this no­tion. Grad­u­ate stu­dents have been seek- ing re­dress of their griev­ances in­ter­nally for decades, but the univer­sity has out­right re­fused to ad­dress these is­sues mean­ing­fully. Form­ing a union would sim­ply al­low stu­dents the abil­ity to seek the equitable wages, fair work­ing con­di­tions, and pre­dictable em­ploy­ment ev­ery­one de­serves.

The univer­sity has sug­gested that our roles as stu­dents mean that we are not civil ser­vants, and there­fore are not con­sti­tu­tion­ally en­ti­tled to bar­gain­ing rights. Yet why are the pay­checks that we re­ceive is­sued by the state? More­over, this as­ser­tion ig­nores the fact that we are a nec­es­sary part of UH. The univer­sity would not be able to main­tain its sta­tus as a ma­jor re­search cen­ter or ma­tric­u­late as many stu­dents as it does with­out grad­u­ate stu­dent la­bor. With­out us, UH would not be able to func­tion as it does.

Al­low­ing grad­u­ate as­sis­tants to union­ize would put the state of Hawaii at the head of a pro­gres­sive na­tional trend. As well, rec­og­niz­ing grad­u­ate stu­dent rights is not only im­por­tant for our wel­fare but also for the univer­sity as a whole and the state of Hawaii. Our work­ing con­di­tions con­sti­tute an is­sue that af­fects the sta­bil­ity of the univer­sity, and thus, the in­struc­tional qual­ity at UH as well as the eco­nomic, cul­tural, and so­cial value that the univer­sity pro­duces. More­over, in the fu­ture, if grad­u­ate stu­dents are not val­ued in Hawaii, they will take their skills else­where. This po­ten­tial brain drain could weaken the state and cause long-term dam­age to the in­tel­lec­tual and fi­nan­cial well-be­ing of Hawaii.

Ad­di­tion­ally, col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing to pro­tect work­ers from abuse is part of the bedrock of the Demo­cratic Party. If Gov. Ige de­cides to veto the bill, he will be deny­ing us our con­sti­tu­tional rights and turn­ing his back on both his own party and higher ed­u­ca­tion in the state of Hawaii. We ask, then, that he re­con­sider his de­clared in­tent to veto and sign HB 553 into law.

Jonathan Dial, top, and Nick Chagnon sub­mit­ted this on be­half of the Univer­sity of Hawaii-Manoa Grad­u­ate Stu­dent Or­ga­ni­za­tion (GSO) Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil; Dial is GSO pres­i­dent and Chagnon is at-large rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.