Letters 4-9-2013


Teachers

The relativity of labor contract concerns

I’m a substitute teacher and because of that I have to laugh when regular teachers, the poor things, complain that they have worked without a contract for a whole three years.

I’ve worked without a contract for 20 years. Those in my noble profession have worked without a contract since the beginning of public education, about 500 years.

Who knows, maybe when Socrates in ancient Greece got sick and had to call a substitute, I’m sure his sub did not have a contract.

But actually we do have a contract, it has no benefits or protection, It is a sneaky pseudo-contract invented by Department of Education lawyers to get around paying substitutes unemployment in the summer.

I used to get unemployment between school years, as did all the others in my honorable profession, until 1998 when they came up with an underhanded loophole (Hawaii Statute 38329, Section B-1) that says we “have a reasonable expectation to be hired again.” It’s completely bogus but it gets the DOE off the hook from paying us our lawful share.

So we do have a contract, but besides never being voted on or negotiated, our contract is iron-clad and guarantees we won’t ever be paid anything.

I could stop here with the jokes but they really aren’t that funny. Substitutes have no rights at all.

Like all nonunion workers, we can be fired on a whim — with no recourse. No advocate stands up for us. A school principal or regular teacher doesn’t like our looks and we’re gone.

I was once let go from a school for moving a chair. I have lost $6,000 a year for five years.

There’s no Woody Guthrie or Cesar Chavez for us. Like the migrant workers or the slaves on the plantation, we best not say a word or else.

Substitutes are a true phenomena, we are denied almost all 10 of the Bill of Rights. If we dare to exercise our rights, we are fired.

Did I mention medical or dental benefits? Forget it, but we do have a limited medical plan, it’s called S.O.L.

Don’t get me started about the substitute settlement. It began in 2005 and was settled in 2009.

They promised subs would get our back pay, our big check in the mail for proving the DOE was fraudulent regarding pay raises. We will get our money — never.

We are the untouchables of the school system.

But in our noble profession, despite all of our trials, we keep slogging along, letting teachers have their days off — while we suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous sophomores and eighth graders.

Fellow teachers, that is all you “real teachers,” on the eve of voting on your contract, I say take the deal. Remember, things could be worse. If you’re not good, you could be turned into a substitute.

Dennis Gregory

Kailua-Kona