On this Labor Day (2021), the Hawai’i Workers Center honors all workers and the dignity of work. We especially lift up the contributions of essential workers who have sacrificed and continue to serve during this pandemic, often under very difficult conditions.
The pandemic has showed us how much we depend on essential workers, including many vulnerable and low-paid workers.
We, the Hawai’i Workers Center, recognize that our well-being is bound with the fortunes of others. Let us strive for a shared prosperity, security and a strong democracy in which workers voices are heard and respected. Let us recommit ourselves to address the persistent injustices and inequities that organized labor and workers has been fighting for over a century. Too many workers are still struggle to make end meet and some are victims of wage theft, unsafe conditions and other abuses. Others have waited endlessly to receive their unemployment benefits and struggle with mounting debt.
While we have much to thank the labor movement for its historic achievements such as the end of child labor, overtime pay, and safety standard, much remains to be done.
We call on Governor Ige, Lt Governor Green and our state legislative leadership to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, guarantee some paid sick days and breaks, not force health professionals to work endless hours and fix our broken unemployment system by opening the office for in-person assistance and finally address the massive backlog of claimants
Platitudes and picnics don’t do justice to our workforce. ACTION on these issues it what will truly honor the contributions of workers.
Statement of the Hawai‘i Workers Center on DLIR’s Refusal to Provide In-Person Services and Open Its Offices on Sept. 7 as Previously Promised
On this Labor Day, a day to commemorate and celebrate the struggles and accomplishments of the labor movement in Hawai‘i and the U.S., we must sadly note that the State of Hawai‘i continues to fail thousands of unemployed workers by keeping UI offices closed and refusing to provide direct in-person services and assistance to these workers in filing their claims and receiving payments.
For some workers, the only way their claim will be filed or resolved is with in-person help. These workers lack access to technology, may not be technologically savvy, or are not proficient in English. The Hawai‘i Workers Center has listened to countless stories of people denied meaningful access to the unemployment system. Stories such as James, 67, who had difficulty applying online. A family member living in another state tried to help him, but his application was then flagged as a suspicious claim. He calls and waits for long periods of time, and has tried for months without success to get an appointment to resolve his claim. He has found part-time work and is trying to climb out of debt; he now lives in his car.
Barry, another unemployed worker, faced similar issues when filing his claim. He says he has called DLIR “thousands of times.” He is broke and now lives on the streets. His phone service has been cut off; his only recourse would be to seek help in person from staff at a DLIR office.
The DLIR has yet to provide a plan on how workers such as James or Barry will be helped and their claims resolved, and how DLIR will resolve the massive backlog of workers’ claims.
After 17 months of DLIR’s closure of all UI offices, the DLIR has backtracked on its announcement that it would reopen its offices on September 7, 2021, citing the increase in Covid cases and the anger of claimants. Yet many medical providers, pharmacies, banks, credit unions, grocery stores, and other essential services and government offices remain open and are actively serving the public. It is clear DLIR could safely reopen their offices and provide assistance to unemployed workers and their families.
DLIR’s unjustified refusal to open up its offices for direct, in-person services which could resolve the issues of thousands of claimants is unconscionable and has greatly added to the stress and suffering of these workers and their families. Some of these claimants have been waiting for many months and, in some cases, over a year, to receive benefits they are rightfully entitled to.
We call on Governor David Ige and Lt. Governor Josh Green to intervene on behalf of Hawai‘i’s unemployed workers and provide an actionable plan for moving forward. The Hawai‘i Workers Center’s letters to these officials are included with this release.
More than a thousand coal miners at Warrior Met Coal are now in the third month of their strike in the right-to-work state of Alabama. The miners walked off the job on April 1 after their union, the United Mine Workers of America, called the first strike to hit the state’s coal mining industry in four decades. Workers are fighting for improvements to wages and benefits after they agreed to drastic cutbacks in 2016, when Warrior Met Coal took control of the mines after the previous company went bankrupt. (Democracy Now, June 22, 2021)
The Hawai’i Workers Center condemns the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Books. These atrocious killings add to the long list of Black Americans summarily executed by police in many U.S. cities. Those who have demonstrated against these atrocities have often been gassed, beaten, and arrested by the police. We oppose these policies and police tactics and will do all we can to halt this pattern of violence and racist discrimination against people of color.
We join with UNITE HERE! Local 5’s call to “defeat racism and all that divides workers.” We need to stand together to resist these attacks and halt the government’s violence against people of color and those demonstrating for human rights. Black Lives Matter! Unite! Defeat Racism!