Take Me Out to the Ballgame…and sign a union card!
October heralds the coming of baseball’s World Series and I’m reminded of the important role baseball played in ILWU’s organizing strategy during Martial Law (1941 – 1944).
Martial Law was declared almost immediately after the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor! It severely curtailed basic freedoms, courts were replaced by military tribunals, the right of habeas corpus was suspended and workers were “frozen” in their jobs. Defense contractors made wages far in excess of those paid to plantation workers, but workers were not allowed to leave local jobs to seek the higher wages!
Leaving one’s job was an offense punishable by the tribunals, whose make-up often include both a military representative and a representative of the business community (often plantation managers). While union organizing was not expressly forbidden, it was difficult for workers even to visit other plantations. But everyone, including management, loved baseball! The games would provide a way for workers at different plantations to talk about and organize for the ILWU.
Historian, Dr. Franklin Odo tells of Hideo “Major” Okada and how baseball helped advance union organizing.
Olaa Plantation’s Yasu Arakaki shared his story in a 1995 interview about “what’s in a name, baseball and union organizing”. Yasu was a brilliant organizer and headed up the Hawaii Island baseball league and the ILWU effort to organize the island!
Your continued support is important!
Mahalo Nui Loa, Chris Conybeare Executive Producer