In this “Statehood Countdown,” we’re looking at four resolutions delivered to the ILWU Local 142, 2nd Biennial Local Convention at the Hilo Armory in September 1955. The four resolutions on World Peace, World Trade, Capital Punishment, and Statehood for Hawaii.
This document not only offers insight as to what were some of the major conditions facing Hawaii and our relationship to the world in 1955, but it opens the door to our understanding of the relationship between local and international unions, the United Nations, and the cold war.
Approaching the #6 statement under the Resolution on World Peace: “Reverse the vote cast by the U.S. in the UN Assembly against independence for colonial nations and the right of colonial countries to own and exploit their own natural resources,” what this refers to is a resolution advanced in the United Nations which the US didn’t support and addressed within the US/UN with a series of questions (Dept. of State, Foreign Relations 1953) leading to official US/UN policy on “Factors which should be taken into account in deciding whether a territory is or is not a territory whose people have not yet attained a full measure of self-government.” (Stay tuned for tomorrow’s document!)
The ILWU leadership was fully aware of international proceedings occurring at that time regarding US/UN relationship. This was in part due to the ILWU’s membership status with the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) who during that time was heavily influenced by the U.S.S.R and an integral part of one of the UN’s specialized agencies, the International Labour Organization (ILO).
In 1955, The ILWU was still a member of the WFTU, and many in Washington feared the ILWU’s close involvement with this organization which was one of the reasons why the ILWU was the focus of such red-baiting.
It should be noted that in 1949, the U.S. State Department, along with the British and Dutch who were considered the old Administering Powers of the UN, started a new international union called the International Congress of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) specifically to confront the WFTU who had tremendous influence in the shipping, transport, and dock unions in the new territories.
The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), under pressure from the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Department of Labor left the WFTU in 1949 and expected the ILWU to go along with them. The ILWU however, chose to remain with the WFTU, and were soon kicked out of the CIO.
You can read the original transcript of CIO lawyers trying to break ILWU member Antonio Rania in the Harry Bridges trials in 1950 while this was all happening.
Since this isn’t a book– I’ll summarize– the ILWU, with some exceptions, supported Hawaii statehood while supporting the international movements for self-determination in territories. Although it is not clear from this document, it should be noted that ILWU Local 142 union boss, Jack Hall, is quoted as also supporting “commonwealth” and “Kamehameha-ism” (independence) should statehood not be attained. The fear in Congress that Hawaii might become communist was not assuaged by the ILWU’s insistence and testimony that they were pro-statehood. Senators Knowland and Eastman specifically led the charge that Hawaii was going to fall under Soviet influence, just as China had in 1949, and many of the new territories had as well. UNGAR 742 (1953), had struck fear into the old colonial establishment, and they were going to fight the WFTU along all of its international ports, waterways and air fields to maintain control over their territories. When, in this document, the ILWU calls for the end of wars in Africa, Indochina and Korea, they are calling for the end of colonial oppression in territories. This is part of the international context in which Hawaii’s statehood occurred.
go to original
ILWU LOCAL 142
2nd BIENNIAL LOCAL CONVENTION
HILO ARMORY HILO, HAWAII
September 21-24, 1955
We are proud that ILWU had the courage to speak out for peace at the time when the war danger was greatest and the campaign of intimidation against peace-loving people was the greatest. In our 1953 convention we made the following recommendations for establishing a stable and secure peace:
1. An immediate cease-fire in Korea with negotiations following to resolve the unsettled issue of the exchange of war prisoners.
2. An immediate cease-fire in the wars in Indo –China, Malaya and Africa, with the issues in dispute in those wars to be negotiated. The results of such negotiations, whatever they may be, to be submitted to a plebiscite of the people, conducted by the United Nations.
3. The President of the United States to sit down with the Premier of the USSR and start talks aimed at resolving the differences between these two powerful states.
4. Reduce armaments. We hail and support the recent proposal of the U.S. to the United Nations for a top-level conference on world armament reduction.
5. Outlaw, through United Nations action, the use by any nation of the atom bomb the H-bomb and germ warfare.
6. Reverse the vote cast by the U.S. in the UN Assembly against independence for colonial nations and the right of colonial countries to own and exploit their own natural resources.
7. End the economic blockades and establish free trade throughout the world.
8. Promote a free exchange of information and delegations between all countries of the world.
9. We urge our country to abandon the restrictions and prohibitions against travel and entry into the communist countries, and likewise insist that similar restrictions by all other countries be dropped.
10. Give Labor and the common soldier a seat at the international negotiating table.
Time and the march of events are proving that we were right in 1953, just as Harry Bridges was right in 1949 when he called for a Korean cease-fire—and act for which he was thrown in jail.
Today the killing has stopped in Korea and Indo-china as a result of cease-fires and negotiations. The prisoners have been exchanged. The President of the United States and Premier of the U.S.S. R. has met at the summit at Geneva and more meetings are planned for the purpose of resolving our differences. Scientists from the East and West have exchange information in the Atoms for Peace Conference. Delegations of farmers from the United States and the Soviet Union have exchanged visits. There has been a slight relaxation of trade barriers, And all of these steps toward peace have been welcomed with great joy and relief by the people of our country and the world as rays of hope, long awaited and overdue.
However, none of these things mean that the war danger has passed. They represent only possibilities for the achievement of peaceful relations; little rays of light in what had been an almost unrelieved totally black atmosphere of war scares and war preparation. There are still powerful forces who stand to profit from the war danger, and these forces include individuals high in the national administration like Senator Knowland, Secretary of State Dulles and Admiral Radford, who are doing all they can to check and counteract all of these moves toward peace.
If we value our lives and those of our children, we must realize that the fight for peace is not won, but only just begun; and we must do all that we can to help with this fight, by explaining to our neighbors how we view the great issue which faces mankind. Our International convention last April framed these issues correctly when it stated:
“Bertrand Russell, the eminent philosopher and historian, recently warned that the world has reached a point of no-return. The peoples and nations of the world are either going to go forward in coexistence or disappear in coextinction.
“There is not a scientist familiar with the new atomic discoveries who has not warned that today two great powers– the US and the USSR—have the power to unleash thermo-nuclear weapons capable of destroying people, cities, animals, plants, and even of poisoning the atmosphere itself for centuries.
“This is the fact of war in the world in which we live.
“There is no defense from the new weapons. Nor is there any point in building more of them or in making them more destructive.
“What will we have accomplished if between these tow great posers we can destroy each other and the rest other and rest of the world too, in two hours instead of four?
“Even the further testing of new weapons, some scientists, warn, should be halted at once because of the radioactive poisoning of the atmosphere.
“The ILWU is not interested in testing any theories to find out who can and who can not survive an H-Bomb war. We are satisfied that the only way we can carry out our responsibilities to our people and our country is by doing everything possible to prevent the outbreak of war.
“We have concluded that –
“1. No existing differences including those between capitalism, socialism and communism can be resolved by world war. Wars no longer can be won.
2. No people want war. And war can be prevented by ordinary people everywhere speaking out for the negotiation of outstanding differences and the disarmament of the great powers.
3. Proposals from anywhere—whether from religious leaders, the White House, or the Kremlin—of whether from a William Hearst calling for a council of competitive coexistence of from a Harold Stassen, in his post as cabinet officer, for disarmament and peace—if they contribute to the preservation of peace, the lessening of tensions and the improvement of relations in the world, are welcomed by the ILWU. And we intend to do everything possible to put these proposals into effect—no matter who or where they come from or what motive is attributed to them.
4. Just as the ILWU threw itself into World War II without qualification and without stint until victory had been won, so we must throw our resources into the fight for peace today—for the duration and until peace has been achieved.”
We reaffirm the statement of the 11th ILWU Convention:
“The ILWU reiterates its traditional support for a free and expanded world trade without political barriers. Healthy and growing commerce means jobs for our members and higher living standards for everyone.
“We support extension of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act ad other measures which reduce trade barriers. We welcome the substantial relaxation of restrictions on the export of non-strategic items to the Soviet Union, which took place last year. And we hope that the relaxation of international tensions in the Far East may soon permit similar lifting of the trade barriers which now prevent legal trade between the US has inevitably declined.
“Only a reduction in trade barriers and a relaxation of international tensions will stimulate the free flow of goods again. As many American businessmen have anxiously pointed out, unless a change takes place pretty quickly their leading world competitors—West Germany, Japan and others—will have staked out all of the open markets for themselves.
“Last July the Soviet Union asked that the United Nations sponsor a world conference on trade. We think such a conference would be in the best interests of our own membership in promoting trade and commerce. We therefore call upon the US State Department and upon our delegates to the United Nations to propose a similar conference to be held at the earliest possible time. “Copies of this statement shall be sent to the Secretary of State, the US delegation to the United Nations, to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and to the World Federation of Trade Unions. Copies shall also be sent to State and territorial legislators, in states where legislatures are in session, urging that the legislatures memorialize Congress to relax trade restrictions along the lines of this statement.
We reaffirm the statement of our 1953 convention:
“For many years there has been a growing sentiment against the infliction of capital punishment as the penalty for crime. Foremost in the fight to prohibit the death sentence have been members of the clergy of all faiths. It is a horrible thing for men to take the life of a human being in cold and calculated premeditation. Even in the case of absolute proof of calculated and pre-planned murder, what man can say in his own conscience the crime is properly punished when he himself participates in the same crime.
“Here in Hawaii, the death penalty has been accompanied by strong overtones of racial discrimination. The case of Majors and Palakiko is an obvious example. We believe the taking of life in this fashion cannot be justified by conscience.
“Therefore, be it resolved that we go on record opposing capital punishment, and that we urge upon the Legislature amendment of existing criminal law to remove the death sentence as a penalty for crime.
“And that copies be sent to the Territorial Legislature, the Governor of Hawaii, the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party.”
We reaffirm our position on Statehood for Hawaii and deem it a shame and disgrace that years continue to pass without the granting of statehood.
We particularly condemn the arrogant racial prejudice, which has been established by Southern Congressmen in this respect.
We recommend to our union brothers in the various states and districts disciplinary action at the polls against those members of Congress who continue to filibuster threats and other means to deny the right of democratic self-government to the people of Hawaii, and to deny them their just share of participation in the national government.
That copies of this resolution be sent to the Territorial Legislature.
go to #15 of the countdown