Island History

Jack Hall on Kaua‘i

It was on Kaua‘i from 1937 through 1940 that labor leader Jack Hall (1915-1971) learned the skills of union organizing that would later enable him to help direct the big Hawai‘i strikes — sugar (1946), pineapple (1947) and longshore in 1949 — and become the ILWU’s Hawai‘i regional director for 25 years.

In 1937, when Port Allen dockworkers went on strike, Hall assisted them in a failed effort, yet succeeded in gaining experience organizing them and workers at McBryde Sugar and Hawaiian Sugar (Makaweli), while living cheaply on $16 a month at the old Watase Hotel by the Hanapepe River Bridge.

A year later, he organized the Kauai Progressive League with the mission of electing candidates supportive of labor. Knocking on doors and talking to voters paid off when labor’s Democratic candidate John B. Fernandes beat Kekaha Sugar manager Lindsay A. Faye for a Territorial Senate seat in the 1938 election.

Meanwhile, he’d become friends with Kaua‘i political boss Charles Rice, who’d endorsed Fernandes, and was often a guest at Rice’s home at Kalapaki. But Hall also aroused the ire of The Garden Island editor Charles J. Fern who backed plantation management and the political status quo.

Hall’s organizing continued into 1939, when CIO Local 76 gained recognition at Kauai Pine in Lawa‘i — the first time a union won recognition in a principal Hawaiian industry.

Union success on Kaua‘i extended into 1940 when mostly Filipino longshoremen at Ahukini went on strike and mainly Japanese dockworkers at Port Allen supported them by also refusing to unload cargo — the first time races cooperated in a strike in Hawai‘i.

A third first occurred later in 1940 when Local 76 sugar workers at McBryde, led by Hall, won recognition of their union — the first sugar workers in Hawai‘i to do so.

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