Hawai'i Strike Wave 1946-58

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OliverTwister's picture
Joined: 10-10-05
May 25 2017 20:29
Hawai'i Strike Wave 1946-58

I was browsing Wikipedia and came across this article, which claims a strike wave was occurring in Hawaii from '46 to '58.

Does anyone know more about this?

I've never seen Hawai'i referred to among the list of 1946 general strikes, so we need to rethink that. We also need to rethink whether we should refer to the Oakland '46 strike as the last official general strike in the US.

Additionally, I think this could give some additional context to the Landrum Griffin act in 1959, if there were major strikes in Hawai'i as late as 1958 - it might not have just been about curtailing the Teamsters.

Hall and Kawano's strikes resumed after the war. The ILWU helped to organize the plantation workers spreading unionization from the sea to the land. This allowed the movement to organize general strikes in the sugar industry and pineapple industry, not just strikes at the docks. The Great Hawaii Sugar Strike of 1946 was launched against the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association and the Big Five leaving the cane fields derelict. The 1947 Pineapple Strike followed on Lanai but ended in failure and was tried again in 1951. The 1949 Hawaiian Dock Strike froze shipping in Hawaii for 177 days, ended with the territorial Dock Seizure Act.
The strike campaign by the ILWU continued until 1958 when another large sugar strike called the Aloha Strike took place from February 1 to June 6 and ended the campaign.

Joined: 10-03-09
May 25 2017 22:11

Some of it's covered in chapter 5 of "Solidarity Stories, An Oral History of the ILWU" -

Unfortunately it costs $30.

Steven.'s picture
Joined: 27-06-06
May 25 2017 22:57

It would be really great to have a short history about this period in Hawaii for our history section or your blog if you fancied putting one together Oliver!

OliverTwister's picture
Joined: 10-10-05
May 26 2017 20:31

Hieronymous or Comrade Motopu would be great candidates for that as well. I was hoping they'd see this forum topic. grin

I may research this more down the road but it would definitely be awhile and I have no context for Hawai'i.

Kdog's picture
Joined: 13-12-06
May 26 2017 15:38

Very interesting. Also worth exploring is to what degree national oppression of Hawai'ian workers, and/or racial oppression of other Asian/Pacific Islander workers informed or fueled the strike wave.

Hieronymous's picture
Joined: 27-07-07
May 26 2017 23:56
OliverTwister wrote:
Hieronymous or Comrade Motopu would be great candidates for that as well. I was hoping they'd see this forum topic. grin

I may research this more down the road but it would definitely be awhile and I have no context for Hawai'i.

Hopefully Comrade Motopu can contribute to this discussion. I'll comment when I'm not so busy, but I'll defer to him since he lives there and researches this topic.

Comrade Motopu's picture
Comrade Motopu
Joined: 27-04-07
Jun 27 2017 09:30

Sorry I can't offer a good write up at this time. The University of Hawaii Center for Labor Education and Research (CLEAR) is a good resource. Here is their labor timeline page.


Certainly 1946-58 is very active. You should also watch the Rice and Roses shows on the 1946 sugar strike and 1949 dock strike. https://www.hawaii.edu/uhwo/clear/home/riceroses.html

I don't know it they were General Strikes, because they tended to be by industry, sugar, pineapple, or docks. But the impact they had was state wide. The ILWU reached out to previously disconnected sectors. Also, they strengthened the already developing tendency to bridge the divide between the ethnic groups that would strike separately, and lose. Especially important were the Filipino and Japanese groups.

This 1953 strike is listed in the CLEAR timeline as a general strike:
"- June 19, ILWU begins a four day general strike in sugar, pineapple, and longshore to protest the Smith Act convictions of Jack Hall and six others."

Also, if you had not seen this radio interview, it's a really nice (longish) overview of Hawaii labor history: https://libcom.org/forums/history/usefull-audio-interview-overview-hawaii-labor-history-strikes-late-19th-century-p

My understanding is that the explosion of union power destroyed the Republican Party's stranglehold on labor, production, and politics. As Gerald Horne put it, it overthrew Apartheid in Hawaii. Noel Kent writes about how what came next was the channeling of union power into the building of the Democratic Party. So Hawaii is one of the "bluest" states, and still # 2 (I think) at 19.9 union density. Also, Hawaii is interesting for being the only state with a white minority. Horne saw this as allowing for more progressive politics, free from the influence of dominant white supremacy, which he says also lessened McCarthyism comparatively.

The Democratic Party became very connected to real estate and tourism. Of course, the military is also a huge factor here, helping to create a kind of stifled and patriotic expectation, which exists next to seething anti-haole sentiment stemming from the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893. On land use, a big deal is how the military personnel get government subsidies for housing and so can afford higher rents, thereby driving up rents island wide.

But I'm not answering your question on the 1946-58 strike wave, ha ha!

Maybe someone from CLEAR will see this and fill in more detailed info.