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We believe also that the strike breakers, especially the Hawaiians, should be given every reasonable chance to identify themselves with the industry which they have aided in the recent crisis; and that as Japanese leave the plantations, for one cause or another, their places should be filled with men of other nationalities, so that the proportion of any one class of labor here may never again be so great as in the past.
The tendency will be, of course, to let things fall back into the old rut; but it is one which every sagacious and broad-minded planter will naturally and, we hope, successfully, oppose.
A feeling that the cessation of Japanese immigration marks the final passing of the oriental as the main reliance of the sugar industry has been strengthened by the strike, which brought the conviction that even the Japanese are at last too occidentalized to afford the class of labor formerly employed. This opinion was recently expressed as follows in an editorial in the Hawaiian Star entitled "The passing of cheap labor.”
Southern hemisphere exchanges contain reports and discussions of the results to the Queensland sugar industry of the employment of white labor exclusively. It is represented that the planter has experienced twofold disadvantage, the labor costing more and the product of each man being less than when the Kanakas-deported to their native isles some years ago—constituted the working force. Where the Kanakas had harvested 2} tons of cane a day for each man, the white labor has produced a tale of but 14 tons a day and at much higher wages. Yet there is no suggestion noticed that the cheap black labor will ever be allowed to come back, neither is it hinted that, in consequence of the deprivation of semiservile gangs of inferior races, the sugar industry of Queensland will be abandoned. There is some little discussion of relief from the available Hindusfellow-subjects of the people who stand for “a white Australia” but with the uttered misgiving that the intelligent and haughty Indian would need to be treated with a deference not usually expected from a plantation overseer. What is urged in substitution of the obsolete reliance upon cheap labor is a system combining intensive cultivation and the more extended use of labor-saving appliances in field and mill.
Queensland is only one of many countries, though further on the way than most of them, where an industrial revolution is working the absolute extinction of the once deemed essential element of cheap labor in great industries. The handwriting is on the wall everywhere, signifying the doom of every industrial system depending upon labor of chattei quality. Labor that will not voluntarily and unaided find the place where it is in demand-labor that in its movement from one country to another is not emigration but importation is destined to go the way of slavery. The quicker that any country recognizes this revolution as being in process of fulfillment the sooner will it arrive at the stage of effective twentieth century civilization.
From Tropics and semi-Tropics, from Asiatic countries even, the cry is swelling on every breeze of a scarcity of cheap labor to produce the staples that are the greatest in demand in the world's markets. It is the problem of the day for cotton and coffee, rubber and sugar.
One of the latest things heard in this regard is that even the Chinese are found wanting in effectiveness for rubber production. They are said to be careless in the details, so that in tapping, for instance, they are apt to injure the trees. What does this signify but that intelligence and conscientiousness are coming to be better esteemed than brawn and hardiness in that scientific culture of natural products which is to-day essential if the best yields in quantity and quality are to be obtained ? And that for labor with these better equipments adequate compensation must be offered ?
Moreover, the fountains of cheap labor are being exhausted by the modern development of once semibarbarous and secluded empires of mankind. Home industries and public improvements in those countries are rapidly absorbing all the labor they possess, and the wage scale there is rising the same as it is in the countries where invention and progress have been the song of centuries. Whether it means still higher cost of living or not, the time is coming on apace when the man that plows and reaps the fields must receive his fair proportion of the harvest, and on his own part, to be worthy of his hire, must possess the intelligence and skill that will take him out of the category of cheap flesh and blood. No country availing itself of scientific methods will be without labor for its needs when the masses are trained in mind and muscle for modern industries, and being thus fitted are offered wages such as will enable them to live in the state of civilization for which they are eligible.
Capital may rise to the occasion by one means or another-it may be through the wage system entirely or that combined with profitsharing—but in some way it will have to meet the new conditions of industry. The industrial revolution will not be stayed. Yet labor itself will not hasten the consummation by methods of force or violence. It is coming by the evolution of human progress. Commerce as well as society is interested in it, for it means a more equable distribution of the proceeds of natural resources. The Honolulu business community recently had a foretaste of the better time coming, when citizens were employed, at a premium on the cheap labor standard, as strike breakers upon neighboring plantations.
Certain incidents and results of the strike deserve passing mention. While the strikers were law-abiding toward their employers and persons of other nationalities, even strike breakers, they attempted to intimidate (by threats of boycotting and personal violence) those of their own nationality who refused to join with them. Some Japanese contractors and overseers were saved from assassination only by the energetic action of their employers, and a murderous assault was made upon Sheba, the editor of the Hawaii Shinpo. An elaborate and effective system of picketing was maintained by the strikers. Their organization for supporting those on strike is said to have been efficient so long as funds lasted. No disorder or serious inconvenience to the public attended the arrival of several thousand ejected strikers in Ilonolulu, where they were received by committees and directed quietly and promptly to lodgings already provided for them. On one plantation a small riot occurred, and the police force was
strengthened and prepared for possible difficulties of a more serious character; but these measures were chiefly precautionary.
The organization and financing of the Higher Wage Association was apparently less efficient, and responsibility for funds and control over their use was not sufficiently guarded, so that the laborers came to distrust the honesty and financial disinterestedness of their leaders. Yet no positive proof exists that these suspicions were justified, and certainly in the long run the founders and officers of the association derived therefrom no pecuniary profit.
During their imprisonment the strike leaders seem quite to have recovered the confidence and sympathy that for a time may have been withdrawn from them, and their pardon by the governor was received with enthusiasm by most of the Japanese and cordial congratulations by Caucasians.
The authorities appear to have used arbitrary and illegal methods to obtain evidence against the strike leaders, as we may infer from the decision of the chief justice of the Territory confirming the sentence of the latter to imprisonment, which states: “There were papers taken from the office of the defendant, Negoro, without process of law and forcibly, including correspondence.
Defendant's claim that the evidence was inadmissible because illegally obtained was not sustained."
A strike conducted on exclusively national lines can hardly succeed in Hawaii. Employers are too well organized, disciplined, and financed. Probably no one nationality will ever again constitute so large a part of the plantation force as did the Japanese in 1909.
Meantime, the introduction of bonuses, which are practically conditional deferred payments forfeitable by striking, and cultivation contracts, which give each laborer a property interest in the cane which he can maintain only by constant attention to its cultivation, and prompt harvesting and manufacture at maturity, will probably divide plantation hands into two classes, the more influential and ultimately the more numerous of which will be opposed to labor conflicts.
However, the strike has created a new grievance among what is called “citizen labor” in Hawaii, the several thousands of Hawaiians and Portuguese who went on the plantations as strike breakers, and the friends of these, for the returning Japanese were welcomed and the strike breakers were turned adrift in favor of this cheaper labor. This was not true of every plantation. At Kahuku before the strike, Asiatics, excluding Filipinos, who are rated as American labor, formed 88 per cent of the plantation force; in April, 1910, when this place was last visited, Asiatics formed but 40 per cent of those employed. An emergency force could not have been recruited so
easily had the strike occurred on any other island than Oahu, where two-thirds of the population is urban and the number of casual laborers is large.
The white trade-unionists in Honolulu seemed rather to sympathize with the Japanese in the purpose of their strike, and to consider their demand of equal pay with other nationalities for equal work a just one; but there is no relaxation of the fixed disapproval with which in general white workmen in Hawaii regard all oriental labor.
The legal and social condition of labor employed in Hawaii appears to have improved during the past five years. The economic condition of many classes of workers is better. Wages of common labor (males), on the plantations have risen on an average 11.1 per cent. The cost of staple articles of food has increased 12.9 per cent. But certain items of expenditure do not affect plantation employees, who constitute the bulk of the labor here studied, they being provided by the employer with fuel, medical attendance, houses, etc. Housing conditions have improved on the plantations, without increasing the cost of living for the laborer.
The condition of urban laborers, as shown by the study of the cost of living and the wage schedules gathered in Honolulu, is not below normal. In general unemployment is not serious—and forced unemployment of manual workers, whether skilled or unskilled, for any considerable period is very uncommon.
The position of the oriental in the economic life of the Territory is more important than five years ago, because it is more securely established. The property holdings of people of these races have increased much more rapidly than the population. Their competition has extended to a greater variety of occupations and is backed by larger and more varied resources, both of skill and capital. On the other hand, this population is less shifting than formerly, has a rising standard of living, and is pressing more for higher wages and better terms of employment. The oriental population promises by natural increase far to outstrip all other elements of the population, and upon this increase immigration restrictions are not likely to have determining effect. Some unpredictable change in population movements may reverse present tendencies, and the next decennial census may show a smaller number of orientals than at present. But up to date there is no indication of such a change. The smaller proportion of Japanese working on plantations is about compensated by the increase of Filipinos, and it will take a series of years—until the field of employment sought by the Hawaiian-born oriental population that will within a fow years reach working age is ascertained-to settle the probable constitution of the future plantation force.
Meantime a bona fide effort is being made by the Territorial government, backed by the large employing interests, to settle a larger proportion of Caucasian workers and settlers in Ilawaii. It is doubtful if any large industry upon the mainland has in the past been willing to disregard the economic demand for cheap labor, in consideration of what are at least partly civic motives in securing more costly labor, to the same extent as have the Hawaiian planters. They are willing without reserve to employ all the Causasian workers the government can bring to the islands, at a wage one-third larger than they pay for nearly as efficient labor brought from Asia.
Little progress has been made in settling American farmers in Hawaii. Recent changes in the land laws may remedy this to some extent. The Territory has now under consideration a public marketing department, to handle produce and promote markets for small farmers.