Chapter XX: Plantation Strike in Maui
My old friend Jack Hall stepped ashore from a Matson ship one day. Jack had sailed in the deck department. He liked to make the Islands his stomping grounds, enjoying the easy-going, carefree style. He was a devoted trade unionist and one I could talk to about politics. The only argument I had with Jack was over his constant need for drink. But it was his style; who the hell was I to find fault with it? Jack was well-versed on conditions in the Islands and was more than willing to lend a hand in creating some organization.
We had just finished eating in a local cafe when two men approached us. One was a member of the group, the other a stranger. He was introduced to as as Anton Fagel, a Filipino interested in organizing the sugar workers on all the islands. He said there was great interest among his Filipino brothers to start something. Together with the people in his organization, "Vibora Luviminda," he was ready to start a campaign of recruitment. All that was needed was some help from us. His supporters, he felt, might be more inclined to join if they knew they could depend on some backing from other trade unionists.
It meant taking the inter-island steamer to Maui and staying over there for at least a week. The boat left at five; it was now two. We decided to let Fagel know by four. We discussed it with several people, including Berman. We all agreed that it was an ideal opportunity. We had nothing to lose. If Fagel's predictions of union interest among his supporters did not materialize nothing was lost but our time. On the other hand, if what he said was true this could be the door that could open unionization of the plantation workers on all the Islands. We were aboard the ship when it departed at five.
We pulled into Lahina on the island of Maui. A few of Fagel's supporters were waiting for us with a car. We drove down a roadway lined with lush mango trees. In the distance were the huge fields of almost-ripe sugar cane. Our first meeting was to take place outside the gates of Puunene Plantation Number One. Fagel had sent runners out before us to encourage the workers to attend the outdoor meeting. When we arrived at the gates, some 100 workers were waiting for us. They greeted Fagel as an old friend; he spoke to them in Tagalog.
Fagel wanted us to talk to the men about the need to build and join a union, but not to raise the issue of a strike or work stoppage. I spoke to them about the horrible conditions the seamen endured before the advent of trade unions and how conditions had improved since that time. Our remarks were translated by Fagel.
Jack and I never knew what Fagel was translating. We assumed he was telling it as we said it. The men applauded us many times; it was obvious we were making a good impression. After these meetings, Fagel took out a little book and wrote down the names of those who paid him money to join the union. At this meeting of 100 more than half waited in line to pay their fee and join up. We returned to the car and rambled off to another plantation where a crowd was already waiting to receive us.
As each meeting progressed, I became more forceful in my remarks, calling the planters parasites, slave-drivers and two-faced monsters. The stronger my language became, the more fervent the response. Fagel recognized this and at no time, from what we could tell, did he attempt to put a damper on our language. At Puunene Number Two, more than 150 workers showed up. Unlike at previous meetings, they asked questions. Fagel relayed one to me, "What kind of support can we get from the trade unions to build a union here?"
Quickly the worker who had asked the question stepped forward. In clear English he said, "I asked if we had a strike here, could we get support from the mainland unions?"
Fagel looked embarrassed. I was eager to respond. "Our West Coast unions function on the premise that what hurts one worker hurts all workers. An injury to one is an injury to all. If there was a strike of sugar workers and the employers tried to move their sugar to the mainland, for example, the crews would refuse to move the ship. No one would touch a spoonful of sugar; that's how we would show our support for the struggle of our brothers."
The men rose to their feet to applaud.
On the fifth day, Jack Hall's voice gave out. He was unable to speak. We began to have doubts about the true intentions of Fagel. On several occasions we had spoken to him about changing the name of Vibora Luviminda to something more recognizable as a trade union, such as the sugar Workers' Union, but Fagel didn't go for it. We asked why he was avoiding any mention of a strike or the possibility of a strike. He said that he didn't want to rush matters until all the Islands were organized, including the pineapple workers and the mills. It was a plausible answer, and we didn't pursue the matter.
Since Jack could no longer orate at the meetings he wanted to take the next steamer back to Honolulu while I stayed on. There were more plantations to visit and more workers to hear the message. Jack departed and I stayed. It became obvious that we could not wrap up the work we had left without spending more time there. I agreed with Fagel when he suggested I stay another week.
At about this time I began to notice that every time we had a meeting, someone was taking down what was said on a notepad. I noticed a young, beautiful girl about 50 feet from the crowd busily writing down what was said. I walked over to her and politely asked what she was doing.
"I'm taking down in shorthand the remarks of the speakers," she said in a calm voice.
"Who are you working for?" I asked just as calmly.
"The Hawaiian Planters' Association," she replied.
From then on we knew that whatever we said would be a matter of record. Fagel was not disturbed by this and I figured the Association would receive reports one way or another anyway. Up to this point, no open hostility had surfaced at the meetings. The men assembled outside the plantation gates, we spoke, they asked questions, Fagel took their money and names and the meeting was over. However, at a plantation town near the town of Waikuku, a large gathering of men met us at the gate. The usual warm greetings were missing. The men seemed to be uptight, as if something were wrong. I did not know at the time that all the lunas, the much-disliked overseers, were at this meeting. They had not been invited but came as a threat to the workers, to let them know that an eye was being kept on them.
As I started to speak the heckling started. I tried not to notice and continued speaking. The heckling grew louder and more frequent until it became a battle between me and the hecklers, and the workers squatted on their haunches silently watching to see who would get the upper hand. I was not about to allow this small group of company men to take over the meeting. I continued but stopped when I heard several of them say something I couldn't understand, then erupt into giggles. I had to stop them and do it quickly in order to save the rest of the meeting. I thought for a moment about how to hurt them the most without physically attacking them, which I knew would be bad and a losing proposition.
"This jeering and snickering," I said, "reminds me of the time I was in Mexico many years ago. I was riding in a car with the leaders of some trade unions. There had been a big strike of peasants in the area. When we approached a small village I saw a lot of men hanging by the neck from telephone poles. I asked my friends in the car who these people were that hung from these poles.
"'They're Mexican lunas, the people who have kept us from getting better conditions. They're the very same people who jeered and snickered at us. We finally gave them their just desserts; now that can no longer jeer and snicker at us.'"
I continued. "Perhaps one day these hills I'm now facing will run with the blood of those who today snicker and sneer and oppress the workers of Maui."
The crowd roared with approval. The lunas wiped the smiles off their faces and quickly departed. It was a drastic statement to make, but then again it was a drastic situation. At least it was effective.
On the twelfth day of my stay in Maui I was alone, taking a relaxing stroll down the main street in Kahului, when a tall, well-built guy walked up alongside me. "Hey, Bill. I heard you talk last week at Paia. Boy, that was some speech. You sure have a flair for stirring people up. Too bad it's all wasted."
"Wasted? What do you mean?"
"Well," he said, "you're getting nothing out of this. Look, even your shirt's torn; that's the only one you got. You're wasting your time trying to do something for these people. Why not come to work for us? We'll give you a good job and pay you at least $150 a week to start with and a place to live."
"Just who are you?" I asked.
"My name's Dick Hyland. I work with the Hawaiian Planters' Association, and we need a guy like you. You can write your own conditions."
"Get lost, creep," I told him.
When I arrived back in Honolulu, I learned that Jack had shipped out on a "`round the worlder" two days earlier. He would be gone for three months. I reported to my group the essentials of what had happened in Maui and my judgment of Fagel's organizational drive. The consensus was that we should keep an eye on the situation. Anything could happen, although none of us thought a strike was very likely. Still, perhaps Fagel knew something we didn't.
I received a note in the mail one morning. Would I care to have dinner with a family to discuss some organizational possibilities among the clerks on the plantations? I accepted the invitation. The house of my host was in a swanky section of Honolulu. It must have taken a lot of bucks to live in such a place. The interior of the house was expensively furnished. The table was neatly laid out with a setting that would have made the King of Siam envious. I was afraid to sit down for fear the high-class furniture might protest my intrusion. My inferiority complexes were emerging. I quickly subdued them, however, as I concluded that this had to be part of the game used by the Hawaiian Planters' Association.
A man about 40, nattily-attired, introduced me to his wife who was dressed to kill. Cocktails appeared. The first drink almost knocked me for a loop, it was so strong. My mind raced with the speed of a buzz saw. With each sip I had to remind myself that this was a scheme to get me loaded so my tongue would loosen up. I was constantly on guard, yet friendly. The meal was one of the world's finest. It was so great that it bordered on obscene, but I stuffed myself as if it were my last meal.
My host said, "There are some of us who want to join forces with you people to bring organization to our group."
With conditions like the ones this guy was enjoying, who the hell needed organization, I thought. Why would he risk what he already has for something that is still in the abstract at this stage?
He continued. "Your people could help us a lot. Perhaps several of our people could meet with your group and work something out."
I tried to believe there might be some legitimacy to this, but my instincts told me to beware. He asked for names of my cohorts whom he could contact. What was the size of my group and how far did their influence prevail? I found the right words to veer my answers away from names or numbers and repeated things like, "We'll see what can be done" and "We'll discuss it and let you know." I felt relieved to get out of the place and back to my old haunts.
A guy approached me on the waterfront. He explained that he had read an article in the Voice of Labor about the war in Spain. "Look," he said, "I spent some time in the army. I worked in the ordnance department. I'm a crackerjack in my field. Sometime ago I worked on an invention that I refused to give to the army; I never liked the service. My invention is a grenade launcher. I drew up the blueprints and even made a model of it. I want to see that it gets into the hands of the right people, you know, the Spaniards who are opposing Franco. I don't have the blueprints with me, but if you'll come to my house tonight I'll give them to you and explain them so you or your friends can get them into the right hands."
"Okay," I said. "Just give me your address and if I can find the time I'll let you know." It was the last I saw of that guy. For all I know, he's still waiting.
Two soldiers approached me in one of the cheap restaurants I ate in. "Mr. Bailey," said one. "A friend of ours named Leon told us to contact you to do us a favor."
"What kind of favor?" I asked, surprised.
"We're fed up with the military. We want to get the hell off this island and go home to the mainland. We heard that you have a lot of friends on board the ships that go from here to the mainland. We want you to help us get out of here by having some of your friends hide us on board. There's a couple of hundred dollars in it for you. We hate the military; we'd do anything to get away from here."
With a small amount of effort I was able to brush off these obvious characters. I was determined not to be set up.
Two weeks had passed since my return from Maui. I had no idea what was happening over there until I answered a knock on my door. I opened it to find Fagel, all excited. "You have to come back with me to Maui," he said. "Things are very bad. Against my advice the men at Puunene Plantations One and Two have walked out on strike. I don't know what to do. You have to come and help us or everything will be lost."
The strikers had rented a small one-room dwelling in an alley of the main street of Waikuku. They sat around talking. The town was filled with strikers lolling about, doing nothing but waiting for the plantation owners to come on bended knees, begging them to come back to work. I was appalled by the inactivity of the men and the absence of men in leadership positions. I knew that inactivity leads to boredom, boredom to indifference, and indifference to demoralization. Something had to be done to get the strikers stirred into activity. Anything was better than sitting around or walking aimlessly about town.
Fagel called a small group of men around him. They were to be his band of leaders. They were also men who did not question Fagel. They were wonderful easy-going men whom I liked. We learned what had prompted the men to walk out. One of them in Puunene One had openly declared himself shop steward and urged everyone on the plantation to deal with the "union" (Vibora Luviminda) through him. One of the bosses resented his status, and arguments ensued which led to the walkout. Puunene Two subsequently joined them.
The men felt strong. Many of them had joined the Vibora Luviminda in the few weeks earlier. They saw themselves as part of a huge labor movement that stretched over to the mainland. They also believed that all it took was a few days off the job before the bosses would grant whatever they asked for. Unfortunately, Fagel had done nothing to dispel this notion.
The strikers continued to live on the plantations in their small windowless shacks. So far no effort had been made by the owners to eject them. That much was an asset to us. What about food, I asked Fagel. The company stores wouldn't allow the men to live on credit while "biting the hand" that feeds them, I told him. "I will have to use some of the funds to buy rice," Fagel said.
"Since there's a limited amount of money, why not have some of the men go to every store where the workers have traded and ask for donations of rice or beans or other staples?" I suggested. "Make it clear to the merchants that the more they support the strikers in their effort, the more money they'll have to spend in the stores later."
Ten two-man teams went out, determined to contact every store that sold rice. At the end of the day 65 fifty-pound sacks of rice and 20 sacks of beans had been collected. Our one-room strike headquarters had sacks piled to the ceiling. The merchants were more sympathetic when they were "threatened" by the relief committee with a boycott when the strike was over.
It was important to monitor activity on the plantations. We would have to know what work, if any, was carried out now that the regular work force was out on strike. I talked Fagel into sending out squads of men to ride around on all the roads adjacent to the plantations, watching for anything out of the ordinary. This kept about 20 men from moping around strike headquarters or drifting up and down the streets.
Reports indicated no unusual activity in the fields or mills. The employers were still in the initial shock of having their main force desert them. It had been seven days since the workers had walked out. Men were coming in to pick up their rations of rice and beans. So far fewer than 20 percent of the strikers had required this aid, and some of them appeared embarrassed collecting it.
In a strike situation, it's important to prevent any vacuum from developing. The employers must be kept on the defensive. The more charges and attacks that can be made against them, the more time they'll spend defending themselves. That gives them less time to mount attacks of their own. I suggested that Fagel send a wire to Governor Poindexter at the Palace in Honolulu urging him to use his good offices to compel the plantation owners to sit down with the strikers and negotiate the items in dispute. In addition I advised he contact the National Labor Relations Board.
Two days later we read in the Maui newspaper that the governor was urging the men on the island of Maui to return to work immediately. Some "hotheads" were being blamed for the strike. Nowhere was there mention of the conditions on the plantations or the reason for the strike. The governor was definitely on the side of the planters. This was no great surprise to me.
Fagel was becoming bewildered by the complex problems arising from the strike. The strikers were running out of money and Fagel had to shell out some dough from time to time to meet some of the essential needs of the strikers. He didn't like that too much. The strikers asked him questions he could not answer, and many times he provided the wrong answers form the top of his head. If only I could have relayed my thoughts to the men directly, I knew their ranks would have held solid. I had the feeling that Fagel never interpreted correctly my answers to their questions. The frustration kept my stomach in continuous turmoil. I could not argue with Fagel in front of the men. It was my duty to put up a good front with him in front of the men, as weak as he may have been as a leader. After all, he was their leader.
I was posting a letter at the post office when a man introduced himself to me. "Bill Bailey? My name's Clem Crowell. I'm the sheriff here. I don't know whose job is worse, yours or mine. But I'm pleased to meet you." He was an easy-going man with a nice manner about him. I might have expected some hostility from a sheriff whose territory was shut down by a strike, but not from Crowell. We exchanged pleasantries in the few minutes we stood together. Then he said, "Bill, I don't know about you, but I hate violence. The men have a lot of confidence in your word, and I'd like to share that confidence. I'll work with you and the men on strike any way I can, if you'll work with me and give me your word that you'll sit on any hotheads who want to create violence. Can I get your promise?"
I told him there should be no need for violence because it was self-defeating. If violence were to take place, it would not come from our ranks. We shook hands and went our separate ways.
Aside from the regular patrols which we organized to monitor activity around the plantations and the relief committee, we found little else for the men to do. They went fishing or lolled around town. It distressed me to see this mass of men doing nothing when it was a perfect opportunity to educate them in the class struggle. It was impossible for me to attempt it.
The small Island newspaper had handled the strike with a small item which read, "Puunene One and Two are experiencing some labor difficulties." There was not one word about the reasons for the strike or the number of men involved. On that same page was a headline: "Moscow Prepares for May Day."
An idea took hold of me. "We'll have a May Day parade on May 1st," I told Fagel.
"And what is May 1st?" he asked, surprised.
"It's International Workers' Day, the biggest day for the working man, when we lock arms around the world in solidarity with our brothers. It's a day to display our banners and proclaim our aims and make the bosses shudder. In every corner of the world men and women will be parading. Why not right here? It's the perfect place."
"I don't know if the sheriff will allow us to parade. We'll have to get a permit. What if he refuses?" asked Fagel.
"Look," I said. "When you have a couple of thousand people who want to parade, you don't ask for a permit. You just parade. It's as simple as that."
The message went out. Strikers and their friends would gather at strike headquarters at ten in the morning on May 1st for a parade. We purchased paintbrushes, ink and placard material. All night we cut placards, painted them and nailed them to sticks. I wrote out the messages on paper while the other men busied themselves painting the slogans. No one complained about the work; they found it meaningful and pleasing. I had all I could do dreaming up slogans: "Give us justice or return us to the Philippines; Eight hours a day is enough; Let the governor cut cane; Solidarity forever; Celebrate International Workers' Day; Mules enjoy better working conditions; Unions are the workers' best protection." All these had to be translated to Tagalog.
We studied the route we were going to take and wondered about the endurance of the workers. The plan was to start in Waikiki and march through the town on a good highway. From there we would continue to Kahului. An open-air meeting in the baseball field was to end the march. The parade might take several hours and tax the frail bodies of some of the workers. We made preparations for some cars to follow behind and pick up any marcher who could not endure the long walk.
On May 1st I awoke after two hours of sleep feeling as if my head were encased in cement. I was worried. Had the workers gotten the message from the runners? Would they turn out for a long, grueling march of over two hours? Had I done the right thing? What if only a few showed up--should we march? How would the bosses view all this? I walked out into the bright sunlight and my eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. It was an hour before the start of the parade and the street was crowded with smiling faces awaiting the word to form ranks and march.
"Where's the band?" I shouted. A four-piece band was rushed into the small overcrowded room. Did they know "Solidarity Forever"? Did they know "Joe Hill"? No, no. But they did know "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here". Something would have to be done quickly. I hummed"Solidarity Forever" and they quickly picked up on it. I would have given my right arm to hear them play the "Marseillaise" or the"International" but both were too difficult to learn on short notice. Also, I doubted if theses workers understood the meaning of such songs.
The call went out to form ranks. "Hey, Bill," I heard a voice call. It was Sheriff Crowell. "This is highly unusual," he said.
"It's an unusual time," I replied.
"You know you're supposed to have a permit from my office to have a parade?"
"Maybe so, but all this happened so fast that we simply forgot to get one."
"That may be true, but you're breaking the law just the same," he said.
"Look Sheriff Crowell. You and I pledged each other that there would be no violence. Do you want me to tell this crowd of 3,000 people that they can't parade? That's what this parade is all about--cutting out the violence. It's a better way to show their wrath against injustices than through violence, right?"
"Maybe so, maybe so. Okay, I see your point. But do me one favor, please," he said.
"Will you get rid of that sign that says `Mules are treated better by the planters'?"
"Okay, sheriff. But you and I know the mule has it made on the plantations."
We stepped out into the main street of Waikuku as the band struck up "Solidarity Forever". The sidewalks were lined with people clapping and smiling as the ranks filled with men, women and children. Leading the parade was a pretty, young Filipina girl, the daughter of one of the strikers. She was followed by a ten-foot banner which stretched across the roadway proclaiming, "May 1st, International Workers' Day" and myself, Fagel and three thousand workers. We were already two blocks down the main street and I could not see the end of the parade. The sun was unmerciful and sweat streamed down our faces.
Our little band was ecstatic as they crucified "Solidarity Forever" and "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here". All traffic on the highway came to a stop as all watched, maybe for the first time, a streaming mass of workers parading in protest. Every half mile the Hawaiian Planters' Association had their stooges out, tabulating the number of marchers and taking pictures. In back of the parade several cars joined in to pick up tired marchers or bring up water.
Word had gotten to the people in Kahului that we were coming. They lined the streets to welcome us as we entered town. We marched into the ball park and held our meeting. History had been made. May Day in the Islands traditionally was celebrated as Lei Day, an adoration of flowers. Now we had given it a new meaning, a meaning more important than placing flowers on a pedestal. The parade did wonders for morale. Some of the strikers were so excited in recognizing their own strength that they wanted to have a parade once a week. I doubted if my flat feet could have withstood the punishment.
I received word from Ed Berman in Honolulu that an agent of the National Labor Relations Board was flying to Maui to see what could be done to settle the strike. According to Berman he was a good guy, liberal and pro-union. He arrived in Maui and spent several hours meeting with the planters, listening to what they considered their limitations.
It was late in the evening when I arrived back after a trip to Lahaina. I received word that this guy wanted to see me. "As far as the record goes," he said, "we never met and this conversation never took place, okay?"
"I've had two sessions with the planters. They're not inclined to give an inch an anything. They're not worried about the crop since it's in the growing stage and not in danger. Maybe a month from now they'll be worried, but now, no. They're preparing to ask the governor for the use of WPA workers to enter the fields if necessary. That we don't need.
"Now, they made an offer. Not a big one, but an offer nonetheless. They will go for three cents more an hour and agree to recognize a workers' representative on the plantations. Maybe, if we're lucky, I could get them up to five cents an hour. Between you and me, I don't think there's a chance in hell to get any more from them.
"Fagel knows about this offer since I talked to him earlier today, but he hasn't said one word like yes or no. I have to get some answers by tomorrow noon, otherwise I fly back to Honolulu. Setting up another meeting with the planters may be hard to do."
On my way to headquarters I gave the situation a lot of thought. Of course three cents more an hour was not the greatest victory. But for the plantation barons to accept a workers' representative on the plantations was a gigantic step forward. The more I thought about it, the more enthusiastic I felt. When I arrived, Fagel was telling his buddies that under no circumstances would he accept such a settlement. He felt the men should hold out for at least 20 cents more an hour; the question of a workers' representative was not as important in the long run as a big wage increase, he said.
I entered the debate and explained how important the recognition of a representative was. Wasn't this strike touched off by the planters' dismissing someone who had declared himself a shop steward? With the recognition of union representation on the plantations he, Fagel, would have his right-hand men in a position to properly organize the ranks for a broader walkout in six months. True, the three-cent increase might not buy a lot of rice, but it was a recognition by the planters that the workers meant business and were a force to be reckoned with. Aside from that, no one knew what the situation would be like a month from now when the work force was needed in the fields to burn and harvest the cane. We could proclaim this a victory and use it to organize dozens of other plantations on the other islands. I told Fagel and the men it was their strike and the decision was up to them. It was, however, my belief that it would be to their advantage to grab the offer, go back to work, and organize in the near future for a bigger and better strike.
Fagel would have no part of it. No, he said, I know we can get 20 cents more an hour, maybe 25 cents. The NLRB man flew back to Honolulu. The strike went on.
For the next five days Fagel and I spoke very little. Every time I saw him, the worried look on his face grew heavier. Some of his close supporters he kept around were no longer bursting with enthusiasm. The numbers of men coming to headquarters daily for information began to diminish.
I realized that my effectiveness now was limited. I was wasting my time and eating the strikers' rice to boot. There were a lot of things I could be doing in Honolulu. I told Fagel there was not much more I could do and that I was going back to Honolulu, but if he needed me I would make myself available. That night I sailed back to Honolulu, feeling sorry for the strikers and hating myself for not being able to communicate with them better.
Two weeks later several strikers noticed one of their members busy at work in a field close to the roadway. They attempted to talk him into rejoining their ranks. He refused. The strikers pounced on him, chaining his feet and hands and putting him in the trunk of their car. They drove him to strike headquarters. There they again talked to him about rejoining the ranks, with the promise that they would unchain him and allow him to go back to his family if he did. He agreed and the chains came off. He immediately went to the sheriff and reported his story, and nine strikers were arrested for kidnapping.
Back in Honolulu I tried to catch up on things. I wrote a series of articles for some mainland labor papers urging support for the strikers.
The local newspapers were carrying stories about the war in Spain. One story told of men joining an International Brigade; they were already facing action on a front defending Madrid. Men from nearly every country in the world were fighting on the Loyalist side, including many from the United States. I could feel every fiber in my body react when I read the news about Spain. At last something concrete was being done to stop the ever-increasing advance of fascism. If they could defeat fascism in Spain, it could be defeated anywhere. Spain was on my mind every waking hour of the day.
I went about the usual routine of meeting with people, trying to draw people together, trying to cut through years of ethnic suspicion and bitterness on the parts of some groups against others. Right now the strikers on Maui needed all the support they could get. In spite of promises by Fagel, he did not remain communicative.
I picked up the morning paper, the Star Bulletin. The headline, "Alleged Labor Leader Faces Ten Years in Prison" caught my eye. Naturally I was interested in who this "alleged leader" was and what he had done to face ten years in prison. I was shocked to read that the "alleged labor leader" was Bill Bailey! The story mentioned speeches made to plantation workers that violated the Criminal Syndicalism Act. Such speeches, stated the article, "called upon the workers to commit violence. All the speeches were recorded verbatim, and the reports are now on the desk of the District Attorney, who will decide whether to issue a warrant for Bailey's arrest."
I wasn't that disturbed; this was part of the game and a risk one took for having convictions. Since they had not been able to stop me on other occasions, this would simply be another try at the old game of silencing me.
Later that afternoon somebody knocked at my door. I opened it to see a uniformed cop whom I knew from his beat along the waterfront. He wasn't as bad as most Honolulu cops tended to be at that time. "Bill," he said. "I have something to tell you. I have it from a good source that the D.A. is going to lower the boom on you. I also hear that the Lurline arrives in port tomorrow, then sails Saturday for San Francisco. If you're not on that ship, the D.A. intends to have you arrested."
That night I met with my group and relayed the news. "Look," I said. "I don't give a damn if they throw the book at me and throw away the key after they lock me up. If you guys want me to stay and fight it out, that's good enough for me. It's up to you."
To a man they were opposed to my staying and risking jail. They felt that they had learned enough about organizing to take it from there. If the Hawaiian planters and the Big Five were determined to throw me in prison, it would be done. No lawyer practicing in the Islands would dare stick his neck out to defend me. Better take off, they told me. You've made your contribution; it's up to us now.
I was sad to leave the Islands and all the wonderful friends I had made. I would always cherish the time I had spent in Hawaii, but already I had my sights set on Spain. It compensated for whatever I had left behind. One thing I did not realize at the time was that the nucleus I had left behind would one day make the Hawaiian Islands one of the strongest bastions of unionized labor. If I played only a small part in this development, I was happy.
Copyright © 1993 by Bill Bailey. All Rights Reserved.
The Kid from Hoboken: Book Two