Labor & Indigenous Influence in the ʻ78 Constitution

Summaries of Constitutional Conventions Leading up to 1998 Con Con; Declarations of Rights (1839), Constitutions of 1840, 1852, 1864, 1874, 1887, 1894, Organic Act of 1900, 1930, 1950 Constitution, 1968 Constitutional Convention, 1978 Constitutional Convention

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A Constitutional Convention is a gathering of elected representatives to write a new constitution or to revise an existing one. There is a long history of Constitutional Conventions in Hawaiʻi and how they affected the people of this place.

The Constitutional Conventions also served as a platform for labor and Indigenous movements to influence the shaping of Hawai'i's government.

In particular, the increase of local and Native populations as delegates to the Con Cons raised issues on the racial inequalities embedded within the modern government of Hawai'i. 

The labor strikes during the Territory of Hawaiʻi sought to challenge the racial divides between workers and the plantation employers. These movements reached into the constitutional convention to make it a right for workers to collectively bargain with their employers.  In 1950, Article XII, Section 2 of the Hawaiʻi State Constitution provided that persons in private employment have the right to organize and to present and make known their grievances and proposals to the State. In 1968, Article XII, Section 2 was amended to provide persons in public employment the right to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining as prescribed by law (Department of Human Resources and Development).

The participation of Native Hawaiian community members in the Cons Cons pushed the point that the multicultural state has marginalized them and discriminated against their culture.  Their participation in shaping the Hawaiʻi State Constitution of 1978 was part of their movement to assert their rights as the native people of Hawaiʻi.  The 1978 Constitutional Convention became a platform to advocate for the return of Kaho'olawe from the U.S. Navy, the creation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the establishment of Hawaiian Homelands as a Public Trust for Native Hawaiians, advocate for Hawaiian education Program, and establish Hawaiian as Official Language of Hawai'i and to advocate for Hawaiian traditional and customary rights.