Hundreds of protesters representing Hawaii unions and worker advocates marched from the state Capitol to the federal building in downtown Honolulu Monday afternoon in commemoration of International Workers’ Day.
Organizations represented included the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the Hawaii Firefighters Association, the Democratic Party of Hawaii, the American Federation of Government Employees, Media Council Hawaii, and the Democratic Socialists of America, among others.
“The biggest message is unity and power,” said Paola Rodelas, spokesperson for Local Five, the union that represents around 11,000 workers in the hospitality and food service industries.
Rodelas said one of the main issues protesters were objecting to at the national level is “right to work,” the right of employees to opt out of union membership.
“Any union, whether you’re a public or private union, is going to be concerned about that because it would basically allow workers to not pay dues but still get the benefits of being in a union. That’s something I think everyone here can agree would not be good for working families in Hawaii or anywhere in the country,” said Rodelas.
Tim Vandeveer, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, spoke as protesters congregated near the Prince Kuhio Federal Building on the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Punchbowl Street.
“Unions are under attack across this country, and the Democratic Party has not stood up for working people in this country. It’s time for that to change,” he said.
Among the issues Vandeveer highlighted were better wages, equal pay, fair taxation, paid sick leave, and automatic payment of union dues.