The Norwegians Strike in Hawaii (Book Excerpt)

In October 1881, Norwegians made history in Hawaii even though it is not mentioned in all of the history books. It is not certain whether the Norwegians instigated the first strike ever in Hawaii, but it is certain that it is one of the very first on record.

October 1 was the day that 42 Norwegians working on the Alexander & Baldwin Plantation on Maui went on strike. They refused to work until the court made a decision about their complaints concerning their contracts. The Sheriff got 60-70 white men from other plantations to stand guard. The court decision sent 18 of the Norwegians to prison and the rest back to work.

A few days later the Norwegian workers on the Hitchcock Plantation on the island of Hawaii went on strike. Here the workers had often been in contention with Hitchcock himself. The Norwegians called him “the red devil”.

The Norwegians had had enough and would not work any longer under those conditions. They went on strike. Fifty-seven people were brought to court in Hilo. The court sentenced them to prison, but that presented a problem for the authorities. The prison could only house 40 prisoners, and there were 15 prisoners already in there!

Because of those circumstances, the men were sent back to work on the plantation. A Swede named Fornander and the Swedish/Norwegian consul J.C. Glade, who could not speak Norwegian, were assigned to look into the matter. In the end, they did not support the striking workers.

That same month there was also dissension on the Bond Plantation in Kohala, Hawaii. Food was the main subject of complaint. The Norwegians surprisingly won their case, and Bond was ordered to pay court costs. After that, the laborers went back to work.

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“Aloha from Forgotten Norwegians in Hawaii”

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