The rally was one of many called around the country on the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, slain while in Memphis to support protesting sanitation workers.
“We need for working people to have respect, to have dignity and that only comes with a union contract,” Tracy Takano of the ILWU told the throng.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie gave a brief but impassioned speech in support of organized labor, noting his long, close contacts with union causes.
Perreira noted that organized labor in Hawaii is less threatened than in other parts of the country.
“We are not facing the same collective bargaining struggles that our brothers and sisters on the Mainland face,” Perreira said. But noted that Hawaii has the same budget difficulties as other states.
“We are here to make sure that everybody shares in the pain that will make our state better. We are here to deliver a message that the budget cannot be balanced on the backs of workers, the elderly and the underprivileged,” Perreira said.
Several of the signs waved in the crowd, and several of the speakers, blamed Wall Street bankers and conservative leaders for the country’s economic plight, singling out the Goldman Sachs investment bank and members of the Tea Party for pointed criticism.
“Hawaii’s Needs, Not Wall Street’s Greed,” said one banner.
“We’re not willing to sacrifice and give away our future so that the rich people in this country can become richer,” said Eric Gill, head of the Hawaii hotel workers’ union.