Unions struggle to stay strong despite rash of layoffs

Lance Kamada
Lance Kamada
Mike Leidemann
Mike Leidemann

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - Unions and their members spent the day celebrating Labor Day at the annual Unity Picnic in Waikiki. But with the celebration comes concern over all the job losses Hawaii has suffered in the past year.

For hundreds of union members, it was a day to enjoy, but also a day to reflect.

It has been a rough year for Hawaii with a rash of massive layoffs plaguing the state.

"It's been very difficult. We've endured layoffs, the close down of Weyerhaeuser, Maui Land and Pine in Maui. Personally I work for the Honolulu Advertiser and the list goes on and on," said Lance Kamada with ILWU.

At the annual Labor Day Picnic at Waikiki Shell, union leaders say unity is more important now than ever before.

"So many people in Hawaii especially are living paycheck to paycheck you can't afford it and they don't have any alternatives at the moment. It's a hard thing to see," said Mike Leidemann, President of the Hawaii Newspaper Guild.

The alarming loss of Hawaii jobs has even sparked a political movement in Congress.

"Our positions right now are such that when the budget is put together, Hawaii is going to be on the forefront," said Congressman Neil Abercrombie.

Analysts say there is comfort in the strength of Hawaii unions.

"We've traditionally had the second highest labor movement in Hawaii over many years," said William Puette, Director of the Center for Labor Education and Research at University of Hawaii West Oahu.

Hawaii has survived troubled times before, and analysts say the economy will turn back up. The question is when. And the fear is, more people will lose their jobs before the recessional storm is over.

UH analysts predict that the economic slump will turn around by 2009.Of course, that could change. They say a lot of factors could come into play between now and next year.