Alu Like founder championed job benefits
Alvin Tong Shim / 1923-2006
Alvin Tong Shim had a key role in changes that benefited generations of Hawaii government employees and native Hawaiians.
The Honolulu attorney helped draft legislation that established health care and pension benefits "that made Hawaii one of the most progressive states in the nation," said U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie.
"He was an important pioneer who was willing and strong enough to consider new ideas," said U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye. Shim was one of the founders of Alu Like, which "has helped to provide jobs for thousands of native Hawaiian youth and ... became the inspiration for many other native Hawaiian cultural, educational and health programs," Inouye said.
Shim, 82, died June 24 in Kuakini Medical Center. He was active throughout his career as a behind-the-scenes leader of the Democrat Party and proponent of native Hawaiian initiatives. He was a mentor for many young people who have entered politics, government and community service, said his son Pono Shim. "My dad's mantra was 'people before power and money.'"
Russell Okata, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, said Shim "was a visionary, he was the guy who brought unions to think on a different plane." As chief attorney for the state House of Representatives in 1959-62, Shim drafted bills that have benefited generations of workers. "He believed wages alone were not enough; he required us to look out for people who retired." Group coverage for workers, such as health insurance or pension plans, was a new idea at that time, Okata said, and is now a benefit that private industry employees as well as public workers take for granted.
Shim was in private practice for many years and among his clients were 27 labor unions and trade councils. In 1978, he was influential in drafting the state's no-fault insurance bill.
"He was a change agent," said Winona Rubin, Alu Like board chairwoman. She said Shim, a 1941 graduate of Kamehameha Schools, was one of several native Hawaiian leaders who explored ways to meet native Hawaiians' needs for social services and educational programs. Alu Like was launched with a $250,000 federal grant 30 years ago and has assisted more than 100,000 people through several programs.
"Alvin was a very clear thinker, there was something positive in everything he did," said Rubin. "As an attorney, he was akamai when it came to negotiating. He was a mentor for many young people in the field."
Attorney John Komeiji said, "One of his goals in life, he was trying to develop leaders. He was a philosopher, an idealist, trying to get people to work together. He provided guidance while I was growing up. He was more than a lawyer, he was someone who really cared about Hawaii."
David Peters, a lifelong friend, said Shim "was a quiet, background kind of guy. He didn't want to be noted. He just wanted to satisfy a lot of people."
Shim was born in Wailuku. He earned a law degree at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and worked there for the federal economic stabilization agency and wage stabilization board.
He is survived by wife Kathryn; former wife Marion Heen; sons Neumann, Sri, Pono and Sy; daughters Dari Matsuura and Dana Palama; brother Ronald; stepson Liko Martin; hanai children Alvin, Kehau, Makai and Waipa Parker; 15 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A service will be held at 2 p.m. next Wednesday at the Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall. Visitation will begin at 1 p.m. The family requests that people bring typed anecdotes and photographs to share. No flowers.