Page images


“Provision will be made that if the laborer is incapacitated by sickness, or excused for other cause by the employer, he shall not thereby forfeit the whole of the bonus but shall receive a proportionate part of the bonus for the number of days work performed.

"In case where some of the laborers are part of the time under contracts and part of the time working on a day wage basis, they shall be entitled to a pro rata of the bonus while working as day hands.

"Laborers, whether contractors or day men will continue to be furnished, free of charge, with house, water, fuel, and medical attendance."

Conservatives claim that this victory is due to their efforts; while radicals are not satisfied with the bonus system and still insist that this change in wage scale is due to the strike and the hard fight on their part.

That this settlement followed lines advocated or suggested by the conservative Japanese newspapers is indicated by its conforming with the policy earlier outlined by them. The Hawaii Shinpo had previously discussed the situation.

Labor can be satisfied and made permanent. Apropos of sentiments expressed in this paper recently that the plantations would be doing something to make permanent their labor supply if they turned over the plantation stores to the Japanese to run on a cooperative system, statements have been made by the managements of some of the plantations interested that their stores are not run on profit-making plans, but maintained for the purpose of allowing their employees to get supplies cheaply and conveniently. We give full credence to the statements, believing that on some of the plantations such is the system. On the other hand, we know that some of the plantation stores are run at a good profit.

There is no disposition to object to any business being run at a profit; but, in the case of the plantation stores, we believe that the ultimate profit to the plantations would be greater if they allowed the store patrons to share the profits among themselves. The Japanese laborers reason among themselves that the profits at the stores are large, this reasoning being partly due, we believe, to the lack of knowledge many of them have of commercial business, not realizing that there are charges to be made against a business other than the first cost of the goods and the freight. But when the Japanese note that in some cases the plantation store has a monopoly and that other competing stores are not allowed on the plantation, they jump to the conclusion that great profits are being made out of them. This is one of the things the laborers consider they have as a grievance.

If those plantations which are not running their stores for profit would turn them over to 'huis' made up from among their own laborers, the conveniences of a plantation store could be had by the laborers in the same way as now, while the burden of conducting

, the store would be taken off the plantation. Such a move, too, would set the example to those plantations which do not run their stores solely for the convenience of their laborers.

To the plantation the store profits are insignificant, to the laborer they are much; while foregoing these small profits the plantation would be removing one of the causes of complaint the laborers feel they have against their employers. The plantation would gain in the long run.

The Shinpo desires to point this out to the plantation managements. It is absolutely beyond question that the laborers feel that they are every day getting into a stronger position from which to exact terms for their own betterment. This is not said in a desire to be in the least sensational, nor is it in any way to be looked upon or construed as a threat. It is a simple statement of facts, plain to anyone who has any knowledge of the sentiment crystallizing among the Japanese laborers of Hawaii. The laborers themselves desire to make no threats and no extravagant demands, but are simply figuring the supply of labor in sight and sizing it up against the known demand. It appears to the Shinpo, looking at the matter without prejudice, that the plantations can well afford at this juncture to make some slight concessions.

It is extremely important to the plantations of Hawaii that the labor supply be made as permanent as possible. It is also of importance that the supply be made to go as far as possible. Permanency can be secured, we believe, through the making of slight concessions, as above, by providing better houses for the laborers in some instances and by encouraging the laborers to retain their savings in Hawaii and invest them here. The enlarging of the supply may also be brought about in an expeditious and fairly cheap manner--certainly more expeditious and with a smaller cost than by importation, through the offering of bonuses.

At the present time, as is known to every plantation manager, the Japanese laborers do not, as a rule, do a full month's work each month. An examination of the time sheets will show that on nearly every plantation the average number of days worked by each laborer is not over 18 in any one month. The other seven or eight working days in each month are spent by the laborers in “laying off.” If a bonus system could be put into operation whereby a minimum wage paid to the man who works only 16 or 18 days would be increased for the man who works 20 days out of the month, and increased further to the one who puts in the full month, the majority would lay off less and the labor supply be therefore increased appreciably.

Such a system would add from 10 to 20 per cent to the working forces of the plantation, and the amount necessary to be paid in bonuses would be less, we believe, than it would cost the planters to bring in the three to six thousand laborers needed to make such an increase, while the bookkeeping cost, the cost of the maintenance of camps, and such incidentals would be less with the smaller force working full time than with a large force working part of the time.

[blocks in formation]

At the outset of the strike some of the managers affected were insistent that concessions be made the Japanese, but under the strict organization of all sugar employers in the Territory they could not take individual action. The attitude of those planters who stood out against concessions was thus publicly expressed while the strike was in progress:

There seems to be a general impression, so far as the outside public is concerned, that the issue between those agitating for higher wages and the plantations is simply this: The plantations are standing pat at $18 a month notwithstanding three or four years of great prosperity, and refusing to budge from that figure, and the Japanese, on the other hand, want this wage raised higher. Such an impression is substantially wrong. The truth is, taking the plantations as a whole, much the smaller proportion of Japanese are not working for a daily or monthly wage at all. One of the large plantations on this island a month ago, out of a total of 2,083 men on the pay roll, employed during that month, only 353 were on a daily wage; all the rest of that great force were working under contracts or their equivalent. Another large plantation on one of the other islands, during the same month, out of a sum total of 3,500 men on the pay roll, had only 400 men employed as day laborers. Other plantations are not as well circumstanced, but the drift has been and is steadily toward a reduction in the force of day laborers.

Again, large numbers of those classed as day laborers on $18 per month are engaged on “stint” or “uku pau” work, whereby they finish the day's work early in the afternoon, when they can either return home or continue on and be credited with overtime.

Again, it is a mistake to assume that for the past three or four years the matter of wages has stood still. On the contrary, the contract system and other substitutes for day labor have been steadily developing during that period. The conditions to-day, as to wages, and the conditions even 12 months ago are not the same.

Cutting, loading, and cultivating cane, and even planting and such like work, are being done largely by contract, and the contract system is being steadily extended and adjusted until the assumption that the plantations are to-day being run by men at $18 a month is a misfit statement wide of the truth. These various contracts under which thousands of Japanese are working are all designed to give them considerably more than a monthly wage of $18. Occasionally by mischance a contract gang may get less than the daily wage, but this so seldom happens that when it does occur it is literally a mishap, and always under such circumstances the men are paid full wages without regard to the results of the contract. On the other hand, there are thousands of Japanese laborers who to-day are making $1 a day on their contracts, besides getting house room, water, fuel, and medical attendance free. I can go further and truthfully state that a considerable number of Japanese laborers are making over $30 a month, and, as I said before, the contract system is developing right along, and particularly during the past two years, as labor conditions have been approaching the point where it was essential that there should be as many men as possible working on contract basis and as few as possible under daily or monthly wage.

When recently the Higher Wage Association demanded that wages be raised from $18 to a general footing of $22.50, the plantations could have accepted the proposition and increased their pay rolls much less than would generally have been supposed; their real loss would have been in the elliciency of the labor.


This process of developing the contract system of the country will continue to develop, strike or no strike. What then is the real issue between the agitators and the plantations? The vital issue is not so much the amount of money that should be paid to the Japanese laborer; it is how it is to be paid. The agitator naturally wants large gangs of men earning daily or monthly wages, who have no particular inducement to do a full day's work for their wages, and who, of course, would be amenable to the strike agitator and the loafers in and around the plantation camps. The plantations, on the other hand, are interested in getting the men in partnership with the plantation, as it were, and the work done along lines where the laborer gets more money the more work he performs. There is the real issue. Individual plantations may have to readjust the terms of their contracts; some are more liberal than others and the form and term of contracts are more workable on one plantation than another, and the adjustment and readjustment of these contracts until the highest and best system has been evolved will go on necessarily whether strikes are settled, begun, ended, or renewed.

What the planters are substantially a unit upon is this: That there is no occasion for increasing the common daily wages for work by the day or the month. This class of laborers are usually less ambitious and include, generally speaking, men of the weaker and worst type. There is no ambitious Japanese to-day fit and willing to do a fair, full day's work but can go to a plantation and earn his dollar a day, more or less; some will run as high as $1.25 per day, and some will run from $0.80 to $1, according to their capacity and governed somewhat by local conditions.

The country has none too much labor now, and that labor must be handled so as to draw out its full effective capacity for work. It must be interested in the cane it is cultivating and harvesting, and it must reap as it sows. The Negoro-Makino program is absolutely and vitally antagonistic to any such ideas. Their ideas, in the nature of things, involve a program for the development of an irresponsible class of laborers who will refuse to take contracts where they will have to do a substantial day's work and where they have something at stake. On such an issue the planter has no choice but to stand firm to the end.

Meanwhile if only the men that earn, or can to-day earn, if they are willing to put in the work, $1 per day remain on the plantations the public will be surprised to see how many men will be found on the plantations and how few there will be who leave.

Meantime the American press of the Territory advocated using the occasion and lessons of the strike as a guide to improving the conditions of the laborers. Two editorials from the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, one during the continuance of the strike and one after its conclusion, voice this sentiment. They are quoted in part as follows:

We hope, as do the majority of the people who discuss the labor troubles disinterestedly, that the planters will proceed to examine the merit of the complaints made and pass upon them with a scrupu

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

lous sense of justice. Some of these complaints, especially the campaign one about an $18 wage scale, which exists among a small and constantly narrowing group, have little merit; others may be worth looking into and remedying. Are the laborers kept huddled in quarters too small for them? Are some of these quarters insufficiently protected from the rain? Is it wise to let a wage scale be governed by nationality? When the sugar estates yield a bumper cropa $30,000,000 or $40,000,000 output--would it not be right to give labor something extra for its share in bringing that result about? Is there not a way of extending the cane-contract system so as to include a large part of the labor contingent now without some interest in the crop ? These are questions which would seem to justify a similar inquiry to that being made by the United States Farming Commission to the end that the capital and labor of Hawaii may be reconciled and the development of the staple industry accelerated.

We do not, nor do any people whose opinions have weight, advocate any concessions to strikers, least of all any to wage agitators; but when the strike ceases, would it not be the thing to remove all real causes of grievance? Many laborers will go back to their work sullen and dispirited; many will feel like doing as little as possible; many will be restive under the prejudices which Makino et al. have instilled into them during the period of idleness. The way to correct such tendencies and the only way to correct them-is by means of the square deal. It will be a bright day for Hawaii if a live-and-letlive policy shall prevail hereafter on all the sugar estates.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

The strike and its lessons.

The ending of the strike, without conditions, should mean the renewal of prosperity on a greater scale than before; and if the wisdom of the planters which brought the sugar estates through the late crisis unscathed proves equal to the strain of success, it will now apply itself to the removal of any valid cause of industrial discontent.

If an extension of the cane-contract system would make it possible for men of industry and thrift to earn more money than they are now getting and at the same time expedite the work of the plantations, why not grant it? The effect on the laborers and on the outside public would be good. If better quarters are wanted and more conveniences of one kind or another and the requests are reasonable, why not do something on these lines? No question of duress intervenes; it is a matter of justice. And more important yet, lunas (overseers) that are tyrannical or abusive should be weeded out. They are as dangerous among the men as the professional malcontents.

But the lesson of the strike does not by any means resolve itself to one of concessions. Certain safeguards would seem to have been made inevitable. When the engineers and skilled men employed in the mill of the plantation which was famous for its kindness to the Japanese left the machinery running at full blast, with all throttles wide open, as soon as they heard the strike order they forfeited such positions for their class. Hereafter white men and llawaiians should hold these positions of trust and responsibility in every sugar mill of the group.

« PreviousContinue »