Regardless of where you live, please join us, either virtually or in-person Wednesday February 24 to demonstrate your support and your respect for workers, both the unemployed and those fortunate to still be working.
There are two tracks:
If you live on Oahu, please show up: Meet at the Unemployment Office on Punchbowl Street Wednesday, February 24 at 10:15 am. Then, march to the Capitol for peaceful but determined action in support of workers, Bring your mask and social distance safely, but stand in solidarity with workers across the islands. Bring a sign if you can!
If you live on a neighbor-island, please join in a virtual storming of the gates (even more peacefully) via email, telephone, and social media during this same time period – from 10:15 am until 12:30 pm.
On Maui – Please also join in a coordinated action from 11am until 12:30pm
@ 200 S. High St. Kalana O Maui Bldg, Wailuku
Bring your mask and social distance safely
Our message to legislators and to the governor is simple.
1. Open the unemployment office for in-person service.
2. Increase Hawaii’s minimum wage.
3. Stop taxing unemployment benefits.
4. Support the right of employment recall.
5. Ban forced over-time.
The bottom line message is that Hawaii’s workers, both the employed and the unemployed deserve respect.
It’s true, some workers are forced to work over-time or risk getting fired. It does not matter whether they have children waiting for them at home or not.
It’s also true that some businesses, hotels, resorts, and others are using the pandemic as an excuse to lay off employees that have dedicated 20 and 30 years of their lives to serving that company, cutting off their health insurance and replacing them with new lower-wage workers.
The 590,000 people who have filed for unemployment benefits this past year will soon be sent a bill for the state income tax owed on this income, plus penalties and interest for late payment. The state should of course waive this tax for 2020 and 2021. It’s the least they can do for their gross mishandling of the situation.
Fortunately, the Hawaii State Senate has moved forward a modest increase in the minimum wage, proposing a $12 per hour increase effective July 1, 2022. While far short of the $17 minimum that is needed, it’s a step in the right direction. This measure SB676 must still be scheduled for a hearing in the House and be passed there. It is uncertain at the moment whether or not the House will be supportive.
Hawaii workers deserve respect.
They deserve to be able to go to the unemployment office and speak to someone in person, just the same as someone obtaining a building permit or paying their taxes. Being forced to make endless telephone calls to numbers that are never answered is unacceptable.
There is no good reason that a physical office staffed by real human beings cannot be opened. Our many friends who through no fault of their own have lost their jobs, should be able to meet and discuss with a live human being, face to face, their unemployment application. Every day on every island people are meeting in person to do their banking, accounting, shopping, dine in restaurants and interact with various government agencies.
The unemployed should be granted the same privilege. This of course should be done safely as it is being done in other offices and stores. Prioritize these state employees as essential and make the vaccine available to them if that has not already been done.
If there is a fear that these unemployed individuals who have been waiting weeks, some perhaps months just to get a return telephone call will become irate, that is understandable and expected. While an understandable and rational concern, it’s not sufficient reason to continue keeping unemployment offices closed, statewide. Add security, stagger hours, start with kupuna, or make it by appointment only. But bring in human beings to answer the darn phones and set the appointments.
Enough is enough. The failure to reopen is either due to a lack of resources, a lack of political will, or a lack of respect for workers. The Governor, The Senate President, and The House Speaker have access to the resources, and if they respect and value workers they should marshal the political will – and just do it.
I encourage all to please join in the effort and strongly but courteously demand that the unemployment offices be opened for in-person service and Hawaii’s workers, both the unemployed and those with jobs – be treated with respect.
Please take a moment today and personally call and or email those who are in a position to provide the resources needed. Ask them politely but firmly to take action, demonstrate the political will and show Hawaii workers the respect they deserve.
Please take the time on Wednesday, February 24th, from 10:15 am until 12:30 pm to show up at the Capitol if you can.
If you live on a neighbor-island or otherwise unable to attend, please join in the effort virtually on this same day and at the same time: By sharing the information on social media AND calling and emailing the 3 individuals who have the power to fix this mess and show their respect for workers – IF they have the political will to do so.
Governor David Ige
Senate President Ronald Kouchi
House Speaker Scott Saiki