On Saturday, April 29th, in partnership with the Defend and Respect Hawaiʻiʻs Workers Coalition, we celebrated International Workers’ Day with a march and rally. The event took place at the Towers at Kuhio Park and drew participants from various industries and backgrounds including labor groups, unions, and community advocacy organizations. International Workers’ Day is celebrated annually on May 1st to commemorate the historic struggle of workers for better working conditions and wages. It is an opportunity for working class communities to celebrate recent wins whilst continuing to address the ongoing exploitation facing workers.

Our event began with a one mile march through the streets of Kalihi, where over one hundred workers and their families chanted and demanded their rights as workers. The rally, MCed by Hawaiʻi Workers Center Board members Reverend Samuel Domingo and Nanea Lo, featured a multitude of speakers. Some highlights included a legislative report card of recent wins at the Hawaiʻi State legislature, oral histories from both Native Hawaiian and Filipino labor movements, and a speaker from the COFA Workers Association of Honolulu. The event raised awareness about the struggle for workers’ rights within Hawaiʻi and globally, and emphasized the importance and strength of an organized workforce. Speakers from recent labor movements including the National Union of Healthcare Workers Hawaiʻi and UNITEHERE! Local 5 also delivered powerful speeches about their recent struggles. 

Ray Catania, a worker himself and member of the Hawaiʻi Workers Center Board says, “We need higher pay and better working conditions. We need a new society without exploitation.”

Gary Labao read a statement from A. K. Guillen, prominent Filipino human rights defender who notes in regards to the suppression of the labor movement in the Philippines, “In the Philippines, union busting runs rampant. People are laid off for exercising their right to organize and advocating for better wages, and better work conditions. Those who go on strike are threatened with punitive actions either by employers or the government. Peaceful rallies and pickets are dispersed and protestors are arrested.”

Maria Rallojay, a speaker representing restaurant workers, the Hawaiʻi Coalition for Immigrant Rights, and the Hawaiʻi Workers Center, had this to say about the tip penalty,

“Tips are unreliable and inconsistent, and we have to rely on them to make ends meet. So at the end of every pay stub usually we get $0 dollars, or $50 dollars. Who is making a living off of that? It’s not uncommon for us to sacrifice family time, tolerate harassment, and work tirelessly to hopefully receive some customer tips. So, getting rid of the subminimum wage is not only to provide our tipped workers with a fair and living wage that they need and that they deserve, but it is also to eliminate their dependency on these tips. Getting rid of the subminimum wage means that if it’s a slow shift at the restaurant, it’s okay because they’re making a living wage.” 

We would like to extend a sincere thank you to the community organizations and various labor unions, including UNITEHERE! Local 5, the National Union of Healthcare Workers Hawaiʻi, OPEIU – Local 50: Hawai’i Nurses Association (HNA), and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) that made this event possible. Support from community organizations and nonprofits include: Academic Labor United (ALU), Hawai‘i State Teachers Staff Organization (HSTSO), Living Wage Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Coalition for Immigrant Rights (HCIR), Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA), Hawai‘i Working Families Coalition, Raise Up Hawai‘i, Young Progressives Demanding Action (YPDA), Pono Hawai‘i Initiative, Anakbayan Hawai’i, Hawai‘i People’s Fund, and Hawai‘i Peace & Justice. We are endlessly grateful to the Hawaiʻi Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice who served as the fiscal sponsor for this event supported by a grant from the Hawaiʻi People’s Fund.

Now, we organize for a better world for workers!