In 1934, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply was home to a group of employees who initiated the effort
to organize HGEA.
HGEA was started by Honolulu Board of Water Supply managerial employees in 1934 in response to a 10
percent pay cut. Initially non-partisan and non-political, it found it needed to be active in the political
arena to survive. HGEA became a key player in the "Democratic Revolution of 1954," and held a close
alignment with the movers and shakers of Hawaii politics during the 1960s.
Gradually, the union came to realize that no amount of political muscle could guarantee government workers
favorable treatment at the legislature. That led HGEA to strongly support collective bargaining in the
public sector. HGEA led the fight to change the Hawaii State Constitution during the 1968 Constitutional
Convention to give collective bargaining rights to public employees.
In 1970, the state legislature passed the Hawaii Public Employment Collective Bargaining Law. Representative
elections were held for the public sector's 13 bargaining units, with HGEA ultimately winning the right
to represent seven units.
In 1971, HGEA affiliated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents 1.6
million public employees nationwide.
For a more detailed history, click on the arrows in the timeline below: