January brings the opening of the Hawaiʻi Legislature. I am reminded that in 1954
the Democratic Party took control of the Territorial Legislature ousting Republicans in what has been called a revolution! This takeover of political power is often simplified as being the result of Governor Jack Burns’ party leadership and the returning Japanese American soldiers.
AQ reminds us that history tells a more complete story.
In 1958 the Territorial Legislature doubled the number of legislators and the ILWU organized support for progressive candidates including some of its own people, like Yoshito Takamine. Takamine was elected to office with only a 30 vote margin over his rival. Takamine stayed in office after Hawaiʻi Statehood in 1959 and served for 12 consecutive terms. As Chair of the House Labor Committee he helped pass legislation protecting workers. His leadership was responsible for the passage of legislation giving public employees the right to form a union. He was the principal architect of the Hawaiʻi Prepaid Healthcare Act (1974).
This history tells us that we need both union organizing and political action! Proving that the struggle never ends, the list of political issues today: health care, education, increasing minimum wage, housing, etc. are the same issues in a 21st century context, that were targeted in the early years of the union movement.
The legislative session this year begins on January 19th. Get involved and join the struggle!
Mahalo Nui Loa,
Chris Conybeare, Executive Producer