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Unionization and labor conditions in the days of sugar cane plantations

Kauai Plantation Laborers Women.jpeg
Hawaiʻi State Archives
An undated photo of women working on a sugar plantation in Kīlauea, Kauaʻi.

Labor Day is a reminder of how organized labor helped transform working conditions in Hawaiʻi. As part of a project with the UH Mānoa Ethnic Studies Center for Oral History, HPR is bringing you voices of Hawaiʻi’s past — sharing life stories of resilience.

Robert Kunimura helped organize workers in the Kōloa Mill on Kauaʻi soon after World War II. Donald Rickard started working in the cane fields at the Pioneer Mill Company on Maui in 1940. They recalled the labor conditions and politics during that era.

These stories are part of a new project with the Center for Oral History. It is supported by the SHARP Initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities, through ACLS.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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