Member Stories

In this section, HGEA members explain their struggles with the high cost of living and their hopes for a fair salary increase during this round of contract negotiations, in their own words.

Fern Findeisen, Office Assistant III

I work at Haiku Elementary School as an Office Assistant III, Bargaining Unit 3.  I work two jobs to pay the bills and put food on the table for my daughter and me. My average work week is anywhere between 50 to 60 hours. I work 40 hours at Haiku School and 10 to 20 hours at my part-time job depending on how many shifts I can pick up.  I wish I could tell you I drove a fancy car and owned my own home with all the hours I work but unfortunately I don’t. I gross $2314 a month as an Office Assistant.  I’m sure you’re looking at that figure and saying, ok, that’s not that bad but by the time they take taxes, health insurance, union dues, and all that good stuff my NET income is $1508 a month. One thousand five hundred and eight dollars a month!  Did you know that the average rent on Maui is $1264 for a one bedroom?  That leaves me with $300 a month for food, gas, car insurance, car payment, internet (because I can’t afford cable TV), water, electricity and that doesn’t include the miscellaneous things as in getting a haircut or now that my daughter is a teenager, covering all the gray hairs, or going to the doctor and having to pay the co-payment or affording to get the medication that they prescribe.  Forget going on family vacations! I can’t even afford to save. I live paycheck to paycheck. Every cent is accounted for.   

As office assistants we are the glue that keeps the school together. We are secretaries to the administration staff, teachers and students. We are the faces of the school and the first people they see as they are enrolling their child for kindergarten or coming into the school for the first time. We field all the incoming phone calls so your child’s teacher isn’t interrupted every 10 minutes to tell Johnny’s teacher about the work assignment or if Johnny needs to get on the bus instead of waiting outside of the school for pick up or auntie is going to pick them up because mom is running late, so your children can get a better education.  

We are the listening ears of school, that one minute phone call that turned into a 10 to 15 minute conversation about how your child isn’t doing well in their classes or who should we talk to about Johnny being bullied or teased.

We make sure that authorized people are picking up your children, or if you’re running late holding them in office for the extra 10 minutes, making sure your child gets on the right bus if they have never ridden the bus before, or taking payment so they can ride the bus or inputting the applications to be able to ride the bus in the first place.  

Organizing school pictures, going on yard duty or lunch monitors if an adult supervisor is sick. We pay bills, do inventory, purchase and order supplies and a lot of other things that keep the students safe and the school running that a lot of people would never think of.  

We are hardworking and well deserving of a raise.  

Katy Deacon, Student Services Coordinator Clerk

Aloha, I have been at my school for 18 years, working with the school and helping the children. Because the schools are so short funded I am in the SSC’s office, I also work in the Library, in the front office, step in so that teachers may go to meetings and anything else the school may need me to do, on a daily bases. I help out at all functions associated with the school. I also am responsible for entering data into many different programs.  I am underpaid for all the work I do.  I love working at the school and being with the children, but if I was a single parent, I could not make it financially.

When my adult son was in a horrible auto accident and almost lost his life. I had to take time off to take care of him and had to get EBT food stamps so that we could buy food.  For a state employee that is a very sad thing to have to say. I had no choice. I no longer receive this, as my son is doing much better and I have been back at work for some time now.  But the people who are working directly with our children are not being paid for the work that they do. We are lucky that these people are all here for the love of the children.  Aloha Katy 

Anonymous Member

My story is like many Unit 3 workers, but I’d like to share it anyway.

I started working for the state many years ago in an entry level clerical position (SR-6).  My husband was in and out of work because he had a mental disability (bipolar disorder/manic depression), and we had two young daughters at the time.  I wanted a job that was secure; and although it didn’t pay much, I at least had some benefits working for the state.  

My second state job was still in clerical (SR-8) and I worked at a nice office, loved my job, worked hard, helping my supervisor with loads of administrative rules, procedures documents, public meetings, phones, mail room duty, memos, reception type duties, filing etc.  I was the behind the scenes worker, working so that administrative work would not be halted or delayed.  However, then, there were furloughs, a bit of pay cut, step movements stalled, fears of benefits cut, my income wasn’t getting any better.  I tried to look for a better job, but I lacked the experience.  I concluded also, I had to stay in a job that was not as demanding, because I would have to take off to be with my husband constantly, who would be either at some time be hospitalized or in need of attention and care.  My husband had to quit working cause of his illness. It was hard to provide for my husband and two daughters.  We actually had to at one point live in low-income housing, which was not pleasant.

I am the sole earner. We now live with my 96 yr. old Dad, who I help and take care of along with my husband. I live paycheck by paycheck, sometimes, over. I look forward to an increase. I wait each time.  I look forward to a fair wage, fair benefits.  I look forward when the time comes for Unit 3 to get an increase! 

I feel as clerical workers or workers in lower wages; we are the ones doing a lot of the difficult and unruly tasks, all the detailed, mundane tasks.  If it wasn’t for us, work would not be done on the top.

As the cost of living increases, my income does not. It is similar to the Social Security benefits. My dad, 96 yrs. old will only be getting a 3% raise; however, it’s already gone!! Medicare is increasing the premiums, … well there it goes!!  Just like Unit 3, they will give this messily 1.6% increase which always follows with an increase in our medical insurance premiums!! Like clockwork, this is always the case.  

An increase for us, an increase in medical premiums. 1.6% is 0%, we as Unit 3 or 4 members deserve a fair increase, that is all we are asking…