Center for Labor Education & Research
University of Hawai‘i - West O‘ahu

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from the Looking Backward column in the Honolulu Record, 10-13-49, p. 8



       As the strike which began on September 18 continued it gathered a momentum surprising even to the union men. It was no complete tieup, but a great slowdown. The strike began with 420 union members. Twelve days later the union claimed from 1700 to 1800 members, and it is reported that its "war fund is growing" and "expenses are decreasing as men go to work at other vocations."
       While the employers claimed that enough scab labor was available, only about 400 strikebreakers were working, and some of them were inexperienced. Many of them were housed at Pier 16, and they were transported about the harbor in barges to avoid any violence.
       The Iron Workers union gave $500 toward the strikers' support, and the Steam & Operating Engineers, $250. Other, contributions came from non-union sympathizers. As most of the stevedores were Hawaiians and formed an important political block, the politicians kept a sympathetic finger on the pulse of the strike.

No Raise In 15 Years

The general public seems to have been, convinced that the longshoremen more than deserved a raise after 15 years- at the same wage level. A former president of the tight little° Chamber of Commerce, Fred L. Waldron, said publicly that their wages should be raised 100 per cent to $4.00 a day.
       However, declared the businessmen, the- boys should have asked' for their raise without striking. Since "this question of higher wages...was not brought to our attention in a fair way, we are perfectly willing to fight it out," said a prominent sugar man. The employers were especially angry with the "labor agitators;"–"The walking delegates who came here from San Francisco to start, the trouble" and demand the union shop. In 1916 they didn't, use the terms koleas and carpetbaggers, but their feelings toward Mainland union men were the same as today.
       And 33 years ago, just as today, the press pointed to the horrible example of union-shop San Francisco as against open-shop Los Angeles . "Honolulu has before it the example of San Francisco, where organized labor has wielded a despotism as arbitrary and as ruthless as any mediaeval monarch, with the result that the progress of the city has been held back and a great rival created to the south . . . Honolulu will not wait until the shackles of unionism have riveted on, as in the Coast City, but will assert its freedom now from the un-Americanism of labor tyranny."

Advertiser Sings Same Time

After 33 years the Advertiser not only plays the same tune; it sings the same old words! However, compared with the hostility it shows toward the ILWU today, the Chamber's attitude toward the International Longshoremen's Association in 1916 seems downright benevolent. Abe Lewis, Jr, introduced a motion that the strike "be referred to the committee on arbitration for further investigation." At the same time the Chamber went on record, 80 to 3, "to insist that Honolulu be maintained as an open port" - that is, for the open shop.
       A special public meeting of the Chamber was called and all citizens invited. A big crowd came, and Bro. Jack Edwardson of the SUP, among others, addressed the meeting. Edwardson was invited to join the arbitration committee, and evidently negotiations began for ending the strike.
       Shortly afterward, however, violence flared up. Reported the Advertiser on October 5:

Cheered on by an uncontrollable mob. yesterday morning, a gang of strikers said to have been led by A. Kalena, a Hawaiian stevedore, threw four large empty gasoline drums on the Oahu railway tracks in the path of an oncoming train, loaded with strikebreakers, en route from the Oahu depot to Pier 17, and derailed the engine. Miraculously no one was injured.

Rush Scab-Loaded Cars

The men had rushed the cars loaded with scabs and threatened the police guards. Reinforcements rushed up and arrested Sam Halstead, D. Kehoowai, Leando Choy, Chong Wo and a man named Kasakoff.
       Jack Edwardson resigned from the arbitration committee in protest against this violence by his longshore followers.
       Predicted the Advertiser editor: "The strikers have forfeited the right they had to consideration. They probably will secure work again eventually and at an advanced wage, but so far as winning the strike is concerned, that is gone forever."
       About what followed the outbreak, the press is silent. All we find is that the men were back at work on October 11, through the mediation of politician Robert W. Shingle. But they immediately struck again in the most surprising display of inter-racial solidarity Hawaii had ever seen up to that date.

(As Concluded, Honolulu Record, 10-20-49, pp. 8 & 4)


       Among the strikers were 38 Japanese, 31 of whom had worked under scab contractor Mizusaki. When they returned to work they were told "with no uncertain oaths of an abusive nature" that they could not work beside their comrades of the strike; they must go back and work alongside the Japanese scabs under Mizusaki. When they refused to endure this insult, they were fired.
       Reported the Advertiser: "C. H. Atherton said last night it war the intention of the company to continue the policy of Japanese under Japanese luna only."
       Atherton, grandson of missionaries, trustee of the Central Union Church, director of the YMCA, "interested in philanthropic and educational work," drew the line at interracial solidarity among workers.
       But the Hawaiian stevedores walked out as one man in behalf of their Japanese brothers. Fred Makino of the Hochi editorialized bitterly: "Capitalists are taking the lead to promote friendly relations between Americans and Japanese, and insist with their lips that racial differences are meaningless. They also are proud of Hawaii as the racial melting pot and the ideal garden in which all races are shaking hands, but what they do always is quite the opposite to what they say. Steamship companies refused work to Japanese union stevedores, and this is a good example of the doings of capitalists, who are going on the way of contradiction of words and deeds."
       The employers, wrote Makino, supposed "that the Hawaiians did not have backbones enough to stick by the pledge they made to the Japanese. But they did; for they walked out immediately to the surprise of all. All this tends to show that the 'melting pot' is a tremendous reality, and Hawaii again has the honor of having first realized the dream- But we (the bosses) who prate on cosmopolitanism, etc, stubbornly seek to separate them because in the past it has been a policy of the employers to make them work under separate gang lunas."
       Again scabs were recruited to work the ships. They were housed on a barge, but their heart seems not to have been in their work, for some of them threw their plates, silverware, cups and blankets overboard and left the dock.

Mass Rally at Aala Park

       The action of the Hawaii longshoremen seems to have captured the imagination and the sympathy of the people of Honolulu. The Japanese were enthusiastic-but unfortunately they turned their enthusiasm into nationalistic channels, going in the opposite direction from the Hawaiian dock workers with the interracial action.
       A big mass meeting of Japanese only was held on October 22 in support of the strike. Dr. G. Negoro, secretary of the Japanese Association, spoke condemning the stevedoring companies' pet, T. Mizusaki. There were rumors of a strike of plantation hands, of a strike of Inter-Island vessels, of the formation of a general union of Japanese.
       More expressive of the new mood of generous enthusiasm was the big parade and mass meeting at Aala Park. Three thousand stevedores, other union men and sympathizers marched from the SUP hall at the foot of Nuuanu St. to Aala Park, and there another 2,000 sympathizers gathered.

Asks To End Discrimination

       Between speeches, ukulele, guitar and violin numbers of surprisingly high quality enlivened the meeting. Organizer Jack Edwardson, Secretary Moses K. Kahue of the longshoremen's union, Tom Punee, Charles Holoua, A. Okasaki and L. L. Burr spoke-and so did "far-sighted" politicians John Wise and L. L. McCandless. This was not a meeting to demand action, reported the press. It was a sort of love feast and expression of pride in the action of the Hawaiian workers.
       At this point the strike practically drops out of the news! Dr. Negoro appealed to the Pan-Pacific Club, which was headed by its dynamic founder, Alexander Hume Ford, to use its influence toward ending the discrimination which had caused the renewal of the strike. Mr. Ford took up the matter with the employers, who expressed their willingness to rehire the Japanese-but nothing is said about whether they would be allowed to work in mixed gangs.
       Ford went on record as "really surprised to find how willing the employers were to enter into the spirit of arbitration and concession, as well as their kindly feelings expressed toward those who had been out on strike."
       Apparently, in the face of popular approval of the strike in behalf of the Japanese union men, the stevedoring companies gave in with a good grace-and then set to work disrupting the ILA Local 3826. What the men won in wages is not clear from a perusal of the newspapers. Thirteen years later, according to a U. S. government survey, stevedores were making only 43 cents an hour, $15.00 a week.
       As for the union, four years later it was no more. In its place was a company union of Hawaiians, commonly called the Hui Poola, which had no part in the Central Labor Council and had become a political machine for Senator John Wise.