UPW Labor History

A Timeline of watershed moments in the fight for workers rights.

80 Years of Hard Work

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Hanapepe Massacre

Clashes between police, strikebreakers, and Filipino sugar workers during a strike in Hanapepe, Kauai resulted in the deaths of 16 workers and four policemen, illustrating early labor tensions in Hawaii


The Wagner Act

This national act established labor rights across the US, including legal basis for unions and collective bargaining.


Hilo Massacre

A group of 50 unarmed unionists, both men and women, staging a peaceful sympathy strike were attacked by the Hilo Police using shotgun fire.


Informal Beginnings

A group of road workers in Hilo, Hawaii banded together to improve their working conditions, and this informal union ultimately became United Public Workers.



The CIO chartered State, County, and Municipal Workers of America Local 646 in Hilo. This helped strengthen its position as a labor union committed to serving public workers in Hawaii. The organization was later renamed UPWA and is now known as United Public Workers (UPW).


Henry Epstein

Henry Epstein, regarded as the father of UPW in Hawaii, was appalled at how public workers were exploited. He led marches and demonstrations and became the first State Director of UPW.


Democratic Revolution of 1954

Labor's influence was crucial in this political shift, which saw labor-supported candidates take power, breaking the industrial oligarchy's long-standing control.


Public Employee Collective Bargaining Law

The enactment of what is now HRS 89 (Act 171) is a significant victory for UPW. It gives state and local government employees the right to bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions.



UPW and HGEA come together in solidarity as locals of the same national union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Under the AFSCME Charter, UPW is granted jurisdiction over state and county blue-collar, nonsupervisory, and working foremen positions, as well as nonprofessional hospital and institutional workers.


UPW Headquarters Mural

Artist, Jean Charlot, and craftsman, Isami Enomoto, created a tile mural in six panels on the facade of UPW Headquarters depicting the lives and work of UPW employees in Hawaii.


BU1 Strike

Nearly 8,000 workers belonging to UPW Bargaining Unit 1 went on strike, demanding better wages and working conditions. Six weeks later, they ratified a new contract that guarantees a $100 increase in monthly pay for each year of the two-year contract.


Strike at the Convalescent Center of Honolulu

This three-week strike resulted in a 6 percent wage increase, employer contributed dental family coverage, an increase in funeral leave, and other fringe benefits.


Konno v. County of Hawaii

UPW successfully stopped the privatization and loss of UPW jobs at the landfill operation at Pu`uanahulu on Hawaii Island. A court-ordered summary judgment in favor of UPW required the landfill to be transferred from private to County operation as rapidly as possible.1997

Affiliation with AFSCME

United Public Workers reaffirms its affiliation with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), thereby strengthening its national support and ties.


Rally Against Privatization

Nearly 6,000 UPW members gathered at the Hawaii State Capitol to protest against privatization in a magnificent display of unity and solidarity among multiple unions.



UPW successfully postponed Governor Linda Lingle’s decision to implement furloughs without consulting with the union. After verifying the state's fiscal crisis and attempting to avoid laying off public sector employees, UPW negotiated terms of the furloughs that were acceptable to its members. The furloughs ended in 2012.


Section 8 Decision

In a landmark decision, Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto ruled that UPW members have a constitutional right to attend
Section 8 meetings for the
purpose of collective bargaining.


Ige Suspends HRS 89

Governor David Ige suspends HRS 89, suspending collective bargaining agreements and challenging collective bargaining rights. All Hawaii unions are forced to fight for Temporary Hazard Pay. Yet, we stand united, demanding the employer acknowledge the risks our workers faced and honor their agreement.


Kalani Werner

UPW made history by holding its first-ever direct election of a state director. The membership elected Kalani Werner, a corrections officer, as the union's new leader. Werner has vowed to unify the membership and restore trust and transparency after former State Director Nakanelua was removed for abuse and misuse of union funds. Inset: AFSCME President Lee Saunders hosts UPW in Washington D.C. in March 2024


Maui Hazard Pay

Maui County workers approved Mayor Mike Victorino’s settlement offer for Temporary Hazard Pay, making them the first blue collar workers to receive the payment.


Blue Collar Christmas

State Director Kalani Werner initiated a community campaign with UPW to assist foster families during the holidays. Each division organizes an annual celebration, funded by member donations, to bring hope to children and families through food, fun, and fellowship.


Maui Health System Strike

Over 400 hospital workers at Maui Health System went on strike after working without a contract for months, which forced the employer back to the negotiation table. After 52 days, the workers ratified a new contract that ensured pay increases, better benefits, and safer working conditions.


Judiciary Hazard Pay

Members of the Judiciary overwhelmingly voted to accept a settlement offer from the employer. All active and retired members will receive a payment equal to 20% of their pay for hazardous work performed during the pandemic.


Maui Wildfire Relief

Under the leadership of State Director Kalani Werner, UPW launches a statewide initiative to send money, food, and supplies to Maui to assist families displaced by the massive wildfire that began on August 8th. Ten tons of supplies are collected and begin arriving two days after the fire started.



Jimmy Toledo Scholarship

The UPW Foundation started offering scholarships to assist member families with secondary education. In its inaugural year, five exceptional UPW keiki received scholarships, which were funded by donations from members and the community. The aim is to empower young minds to succeed through education.


Temporary Hazard Pay

UPW is continuing its fight to secure Temporary Hazard Pay for members who fearlessly worked during the COVID-19 pandemic, proudly serving their communities. Cases are proceeding in court-ordered arbitration and in negotiations with the Employer.


Strength in numbers

The work of UPW members is physically demanding, but together, we harness the strength of our collective efforts. We secure added benefits for our members through partnerships with various businesses.