Union pride, Hawaii-style


AFT Local 1360

I look for the union label wherever I roam.

Check out the photo of the pickup truck I spotted on a recent trip to Honolulu for some research on my book about Kentuckians at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. (Yes, Melinda and I managed to squeeze in a little sightseeing and beach time.)

Right after I joined AFT 21 years ago, a veteran Kentucky union leader-- it might have been state Rep. J.R. Gray -- told me there are two kinds of trade unionists: "Union members and union people."

The former group just pays dues and doesn't go to union meetings, doesn't participate in union activities and doesn't necessarily vote for union-endorsed candidates--or doesn't vote at all.  

The latter group is at just about every meeting, gets involved in the union and volunteers and votes for endorsed candidates. They also show their union pride.

No doubt, the pickup's owner is "union people." I wish I could have met him or her, but we were on the way to the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii and pressed for time. Anyway, he or she is proof that "solidarity," that old union byword, is alive and well in the Aloha State.


I'd bet next month's Social Security check that hogs will fly before Hawaii follows Kentucky into the "right to work" column. 

I can't imagine a bluer Blue State than Hawaii. The governor is a Democrat. The Democrats enjoy a 24-1 edge in the state Senate and a 46-5 House majority. 

In addition, Hawaii's two senators and two members of Congress are Democrats. They are among organized labor's best friends in Washington. 

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has voted the union position on legislation 96 percent of the time she's been in Congress. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa's career score is 97. Sen. Mazie Hirono is a 99 and Sen. Brian Schatz notches a perfect 100. 

In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton carried all four Hawaii counties and collected 62.3 percent of the vote. 

So it's not surprising--at least to me--that union membership is growing in the 50th state. Last year, 23.1 percent of Hawaiian wage and salary workers belonged to unions, compared to 21.3 percent in 2017, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. (The nationwide percentage was 10.5 last year, down 0.2  from 2017.) 

Besides "Aloha State," "Paradise" is a famous nickname for Hawaii, mainly because of the islands' summer-year-round climate, beautiful flora, fauna, mountains and beaches, generally laid-back lifestyle, mouth-watering food--"grindz"--and well-nigh universally friendly inhabitants.   

But "Paradise" is also an apt handle for Hawaii if you pack a union card and lean toward the Democratic party.