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Hawaii Right to Work Laws

People may think of the Aloha State as a non-stop vacation, but locals know that the Islands work hard. And for the most part, we’re happy to do so, as long as our bosses take care of us. In some larger industries, the employee-employer relationship can get a little testy, so it can help to have unions to act on labor’s behalf when negotiating employment terms with management.

This relationship between employee and union and union and employer has been governed by labor regulations that have evolved over time. So how do we treat unions here? This is a quick introduction to “right-to-work” laws in Hawaii.

Right to Work Laws

So-called "right-to-work" laws prohibit unions and employers from requiring employees to be union members or pay union membership dues in order for to get or keep a job. About half of all states have some form of right-to-work law, but Hawaii isn’t one of them. In fact, Hawaii’s statutes protect the right of employees to self-organize and form unions, and prohibit any interference this right.

Right to Work Statutes in Hawaii

Hawaii’s right-to-work statutes are listed below.

Code Section

Hawaii Revised Statutes 377-1, et seq.: Employment Relations Act

Policy on Union Membership, Organization, etc.

Employees have right of self-organization and right to form, join, or assist labor organization; right to refrain from organizing

Prohibited Activity

Interfere with, restrain, or coerce employee's right to organize; influence the outcome of any employment relations controversy


Fine not more than $500 or imprisonment not more than 1 yr., or both

As noted above, labor law in the United States has changed over time, swinging from pro-management to pro-labor and back. Unions see right-to-work laws as pro-management because the laws prevent unions and employers from excluding non-union workers or requiring existing employees to join a union or pay union dues.

Removing this requirement means that most employees would not choose to pay union dues if they could opt out but still retain the same union-protected benefits. Therefore, unions have universally opposed right-to-work laws, while the majority of business interests have lobbied heavily in their favor. From an economic standpoint, the overall impact of right-to-work laws on union membership, wages, and collective bargaining agreements has yet to be fully determined.

More Resources for Right to Work Laws in Hawaii

State employment laws, and how they govern the employee-union-employer relationship, can be confusing. You can also consult with an experienced Hawaii labor attorney in your area if you would like legal help with an employment or union matter. And FindLaw’s Employee Rights Center can provide you with further reading and resources on this topic.

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