Issues

Fighting for the Rights of Native Hawaiians

Bernie is proud to stand with Native Hawaiians in the struggle to protect and preserve their rights, honor their culture, advance their traditional ways of life, and improve their quality of life.

The right to self-determination and self-governance should rest in the hands of Native Hawaiians where it belongs. Native Hawaiians are currently deliberating the nature of their government and its relationship with the United States, a decision that must be made by Native Hawaiians without interference from the federal government.

In 1993, Bernie supported a Congressional resolution that apologized to Native Hawaiians for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai’i.  This shameful act, rooted in the type of corporate greed with which we are still too familiar, had devastating effects on the health, culture, and social conditions of Native Hawaiians, which are still being felt to this day. Native Hawaiians have been lied to and cheated, and the United States government must do everything it can to right these grave injustices.

Bernie will:

Work with Hawaiians to achieve energy independence

Hawai’i is heavily dependent on fossil fuel imports, which due to the islands’ geographic position are more expensive than most other places. Hawai’i spends an unacceptable $5 billion each and every year to bring oil and coal to its shores.  Bernie’s climate plan would fundamentally transform Hawai’i’s energy system away from fossil fuel towards sustainable energy by providing grants to native Hawaiian communities for solar, wind and other renewable energy projects.  Not only would this improve the environment, it would also create good-paying jobs by establishing a 100 percent clean energy system.  And as we make this transition, fossil fuel workers will receive job-training opportunities and the financial assistance they need to maintain family-level wages, health care and pensions until they are able to start new jobs.  Bernie’s plan will make sure that the state reaches its goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

Protect the Environment

The beauty that we appreciate in Hawai’i’s land and water must be protected and preserved.  Too often, huge corporations have come in to Hawai’i and taken actions that have been damaging to Hawai’i’s environment and the Native Hawaiian way of life.  Bernie will fight to make sure that federal environmental and public health laws are aggressively enforced to protect the land and water in Hawai’i.

Fight for affordable housing and responsible community development

Bernie has worked for decades in support of affordable housing. As Mayor of Burlington, Vermont he championed policies that increased homeownership, prevented homelessness, and expanded affordable housing opportunities.  Bernie is deeply concerned about the high rate of homelessness in Hawai’i, the lack of truly affordable housing, and the high cost of living. He will continue the Native Hawaiian Housing Loan Guarantee program, and will fight to expand, not cut, HUD’s Native Hawaiian Housing Program.

End Mass Incarceration

Native Hawaiians are disproportionately impacted by the criminalization and mass incarceration system, which often tears families apart as Hawai’i residents are shipped off to mainland prisons. Bernie’s plan will turn back from the failed “War on Drugs,” eliminate mandatory minimum sentences and reform a broken criminal justice system.

Enact a Living Wage

In the year 2016, no one who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.  Native Hawaiians suffer disproportionately from income inequality and poverty. The Wall Street crash in 2008 further widened the income inequality gap for many Hawaiians and increased childhood poverty.  Bernie’s plan will address this problem by increasing the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour.

Provide Quality Education for All 

Education is a key element to breaking the cycle of poverty.  Bernie’s plan to make public colleges and universities tuition free would provide more access and opportunity to Native Hawaiians. In addition, Bernie has been a strong supporter of the Native Hawaiian Education Act which provides grants for early education and childcare; reading and literacy; gifted and talented programs; special education; and other initiatives to ensure Native Hawaiians graduate on-time.  Bernie also supported Senator Mazie Hirono’s amendment that would have provided more accurate information on the educational progress of Native Hawaiian children.

Implement Fair Trade Policies

Bernie has always opposed job-killing trade deals like NAFTA, CAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that make it easier for large-multinational corporations to outsource good-paying jobs.  The inevitable effects of TPP on Hawai’i will negatively impact Native Hawaiians and Hawai’i’s economy.  That would be unacceptable.  Bernie supports a fundamental rewrite our trade policies to improve the living standards of all working people and end the destructive race to the bottom.

Expand Health Insurance Coverage for Hawaiians

Native Hawaiians are nearly half as likely as other demographics to be insured.  That is wrong. Bernie’s Medicare-for-all plan will provide high-quality affordable health care to all Native Hawaiians as a right, not a privilege.

Support local, small-scale, sustainable agriculture

As a Senator from a small rural state, Bernie has been a strong supporter of small family farms. Hawai’i, which imports more than 80% of its food, can move away from this dependence, and take advantage of its year-round growing season. Bernie will fight to support sustainable and culturally appropriate agricultural programs for Native Hawaiians.  He also recognizes the right of people to know what is in their food, and he has been a leader in the movement to label GMOs.  Bernie believes we must stand up to the demands of Monsanto and other multi-national corporations and support local small-scale agriculture.