Hawaiʻi Workers Center

Hawaiʻi Workers Center

The Hawaiʻi Workers Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization focused on organizing low wage workers of Hawaiʻi, serving as a hub for education, outreach, leadership development and collective power building. We value workers’ ability to exercise the right to organize for their own political, economic, and social wellbeing.

Hawaiʻi Workers Center

The Hawaiʻi Workers Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization focused on organizing low wage workers of Hawaiʻi, serving as a hub for education, outreach, leadership development and collective power building. We value workers’ ability to exercise the right to organize for their own political, economic, and social wellbeing. The Hawaiʻi Workers Center has multiple membership-based Workers Associations formed based on job sector, common employers, shared geography and ethnicity. It is through this work that the goal of building worker power especially among lower-waged workers to take on corporate power can be realized. The Hawaiʻi Workers Center core purpose is to advance worker’s rights from the ground up, centering on leadership and organizing among workers most affected, while targeting the root causes of inequality in the workplace. The Hawaiʻi Workers Center focuses on issues chosen and prioritized by Hawai’i’s workers—low wages, high cost-of-living, widespread wage theft, workplace abuses and discrimination. We organize low-wage workers, primarily an immigrant/migrant population who strive to collectively organize and secure better conditions for themselves and their families.

About the Organization:

The Hawaiʻi Workers Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization focused on organizing low wage workers of Hawaiʻi, serving as a hub for education, outreach, leadership development and collective power building. We value workers’ ability to exercise the right to organize for their own political, economic, and social wellbeing. The Hawaiʻi Workers Center has multiple membership-based Workers Associations formed based on job sector, common employers, shared geography and ethnicity. It is through this work that the goal of building worker power especially among lower-waged workers to take on corporate power can be realized. The Hawaiʻi Workers Center core purpose is to advance worker’s rights from the ground up, centering on leadership and organizing among workers most affected, while targeting the root causes of inequality in the workplace. The Hawaiʻi Workers Center focuses on issues chosen and prioritized by Hawai’i’s workers—low wages, high cost-of-living, widespread wage theft, workplace abuses and discrimination. We organize low-wage workers, primarily an immigrant/migrant population who strive to collectively organize and secure better conditions for themselves and their families.

organizational budget

$100,000 - $500,000

existence for

0-5 Years

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

Hawaii

organizational budget

$100,000 - $500,000

existence for

0-5 Years

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

Hawaii

The Issue:

Workers are the foundation of society; their labor and involvement keep things going. Working people are not only underpaid and often unfairly treated on job sites but are underrepresented in the institutions of power and decision-making. Corporations and the wealthy and well-connected are the wielders of powers. Nearly 40% of workers in Hawaiʻi earn less than a living wage while about 14% of workers in Hawaiʻi are at minimum wage paying jobs, making this an issue impacting an astounding number of workers. Hawaiʻi is home to both the highest cost of living and highest population of houseless individuals. Workers often have to keep 2 or 3 jobs in order to afford the astronomically high cost of living. Our mission and proposal is to do work to huli and reverse the power structure creating these injustices and elevate the voice and power of workers. The issues described primarily affect Hawaiʻiʻs racial and ethnic minorities, primarily Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans. An estimated 25,000 COFA (Compact of Free Association) migrants from the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Palau work here in Hawai’i but are often ineligible for benefits available to those with immigrant visas, adding to the lower wage working class here. The COFA Compact allows citizens of these Pacific Island nations to come to the United States freely as migrants in exchange for the militarization of their island homes where historically, these islands have been used for nuclear testing and bombing. As migrants, their communities often face the brunt of discrimination, racial misunderstanding, and other abuses ranging from workplace to societal mistreatment. Similarly, Hawai’i is home to about 40,000 undocumented immigrants, 40% of which are Filipinos. The Filipino-American community in Hawai‘i is diverse yet makes up nearly 25% of the state’s population. Filipinos continue to hold many of the low wage jobs in the hospitality and service industries. Therefore, we must create an organized labor force here in Hawaiʻi in order to create equity for our Pacific Islander and Asian American communities.

The Solution:

Our solution to the outlined problem is enhancing our organizing among low-wage and immigrant workers, aiding them to self-organize, mobilize and advocate for key improvements in their wages and living conditions. These improvements include: Ending the tip-rip-off penalty which deprives restaurant and other service workers of an estimated $2,000 a year, with the money going to their employers; Winning paid sick leave and paid family leave, so vital to safeguarding the income of workers and their families; Getting legislators to mandate paid breaks so workers do not continue with little or no breaks during their workday. While these improvements are valuable in and of themselves, it is most important for workers to get to know they have power and can make much-needed change. To enhance the power or workers also weakens the power now held by those in charge who are neglecting the needs of working people. Other measures to be undertaken include: Forming at least one more worker’s association; Conducting monthly "Know Your Workers' Rights" training and also training 10-12 additional trainers to spot labor violations and be able to train other workers; Enlarging and sustaining the Coalition to Defend and Respect Hawaii’s Workers to enhance our power and the voices of workers. Our strategy is unique in Hawaiʻi. We are the only workers center and organization organizing the non-union workforce here. Lots of organizations focus on advocacy; we are unique in that we empower workers to advocate for themselves. Thus, the Hawai‘i Workers Center is making a concerted effort to focus on these two communities by establishing the COFA Workers Association and the Filipino Workers Association. In organizing these communities and helping raise leadership, the members of these communities will use the power of their own voices to effectuate change. That is the power of organizing our Pacific Islander and Asian American communities from the ground up rather than dictating from the top down.

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