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• Labor Day and Kaua‘i
Labor Day and Kaua‘i
Labor Day is a day on Kaua‘i to look back and look around at the people of the island working day in and day out to keep Kaua‘i going.
The heritage of labor on Kaua‘i goes back centuries to the days of ancient Hawai‘i, when the ali‘i were supported by the common people, who prepared food, labor for projects like heiau-building and canoe-making, who made handicrafts like tapa cloth, who fished and grew taro in irrigated fields.
In the mid-1830s the first sugar plantation in the Hawaiian islands opened, and was developed into the role model for future sugar plantations across Hawai‘i. For the first time on Kaua‘i and in Hawai‘i, the use of a primitive form of cash was used to pay workers. The workers also stepped out of their traditional rules as workers for the ali‘i to work in a Western way.
Through the years, the arrival of immigrant sugar and pineapple plantation workers from China, Japan, Okinawa, the Portuguese Islands in the Azores and Madeira, from Korea and the Philippines, from Puerto Rico and from European nations like Norway and Great Britain, as well as in smaller numbers from the South Pacific and the Mainland U.S. made the world of labor diverse and widespread, with Kaua‘i becoming an island with an economy floated by the export of sugar to markets in Honolulu and the United States. Many of the towns of Kaua‘i today sprung up during this era, both supported by the labor of workers and as places where material needs of the workers were supplied.
The eventual unionization of the sugar and pineapple industries, as well as among government workers and among trades and hotel workers, and dockworkers, grew into an area of labor that is still critical to life on Kaua‘i.
Today, Labor Day 2004, is a day to thank these workers, past and present, for the contributions they made and continue to make to the life we lead on an island known as paradise to visitors and local residents.
Without their sweat and endurance we wouldn’t enjoy the life we lead today.
This long weekend is also a fitting time for these workers to enjoy the fruits of their labors, be it a day at the beach with family or friends, or just a quiet day at home.
And to the workers who must work this weekend, we thank you for covering for others, or for being there at work when most workers are enjoying a holiday.
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