Monday, September 09, 2013


Unions, community, Aikea and Hawaii

Unions, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has been saying for the better part of the year, must focus on bettering the lot of workers who belong to unions and workers who don’t. Much of the AFL-CIO’s activity this year is really the activity of Working America, whose members are recruited not at the workplace but in a door-to-door canvass and who have succeeded in raising the minimum wage in several cities and counties…. Much the same strategy informs the current organizing drive of fast-food workers that the Service Employees International Union (one of the two mega-unions that don’t belong to the AFL-CIO) is coordinating. There’s little hope these workers can ever get McDonalds to the bargaining table, but there are real prospects that city councils in liberal municipalities will pass living wage ordinances that raise those workers’ income.

by Larry Geller

While I worked for GE, the union members bargained for and won benefit improvements that were extended to all employees, including me. In the company town of Schenectady, what GE unions achieved benefitted workers of other companies as well—they effectively raised the standards.

I’ve long been convinced that the only hope for unions—and for non-union workers—in this country is that unions will see their role as working for the community at large. It should be mutually beneficial. The campaign of Working America, described in the pull-quote above, is that concept exactly.

Unions also need allies, hence the mutual benefit:

Campaigns such as Working America’s or the fast-food workers’—or the hotel workers’ in Long Beach, about which I wrote in the current issue of the Prospect—must enlist a host of community-based allies, particularly because they’re not dealing with the management of a single employer but with the politics of a city or county or state.

[Talking Union, Labor Goes Community, 9/10/2013]

When I attended an Aikea Hawaii event at Honolulu Community College earlier this year, I felt that a similar philosophy was guiding both the Unite Here Local 5 union and Aikea, which it supports.

This is a snip from page 2 of their posted brochure, which I recommend you download and check out:

We, the people of Hawai'i, declare:

That the 1% has the power until the 99% takes it back.
We are creating a new political movement. A movement
that embraces our diversity, promotes justice, and rejects
politicians who break their word. A movement committed to
the simple idea that working families must lead that
everyone can work, everyone can learn, everyone has a
home, and everyone respects and preserves our island home.
Our people are being pushed off our islands because they
can't afford a home for their families; our kids are being
robbed of school days while developers are being given
handouts; our local jobs are given away while more locals
aren't being paid a living wage; our land is being turned over
to Mainland developers while our environment despoiled by
greed; and our sick and elderly continue to be denied access
to the care they need.

They include policy statements on subjects such as Arts and Culture, but I am most impressed with this one, a statement on Hawaiian Self-Determination. It’s both measured and respectful of a topic that many organizations simply choose to ignore:


We affirm that the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation, and the displacement of Hawaiians from their ancestral lands, is a wound on Hawaii's history that has not healed. While just resolution of Hawaiian sovereignty claims will require considerable struggle and reconciliation within and with the Kanaka Maoli community, we acknowledge Hawaiian claims in order to build a broad coalition for quality of life in Hawaii. We acknowledge and support the Hawaiian Right to Self-Determination and join with the Kanaka Maoli in the struggle to make Hawaiian values - including care of the land, and care of one another - the core of public policy in Hawaii. A Hawaii that respects Hawaiian claims is a better Hawaii for all of us.

Not only am I impressed by their willingness to embrace these policies, but I appreciate the writer’s fluency of expression. These snips—they’re just so well written that I’m envious. “We affirm that the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation, and the displacement of Hawaiians from their ancestral lands, is a wound on Hawaii's history that has not healed.” How amazing to start with that statement.

If Aikea continues its meetings and work with the community, they’ll not only become a force to reckon with, but a powerful ally to those working on a variety of social causes in the state.


Re “We affirm that the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation, and the displacement of Hawaiians from their ancestral lands, is a wound on Hawaii's history that has not healed.” there are two versions of history: Blount Report that the 1993 Apology Resolution relied on (account by President Cleveland’s politically appointed envoy), and the Morgan Report that concludes that the United States did *not* illegally overthrow Queen Liliuokalani (Senate Foreign Relations Committee report based on sworn testimonies, and digitally available in 2006). George Orwell’s 1984, Book 1, Chapter 3 says, "And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed-if all records told the same tale-then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'" Larry, I urge you to study the Morgan Report because you may be aiding a power grab in the creation of a “sovereign tribal nation” whose agenda is to build a massive casino resort complex ideally situated in Kakaako Makai over the objections even the Hawaii State Legislature.

I guess those warships in the harbor came to Honolulu for some sightseeing.

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