This introductory chapter discusses the background of Hawaii's labor movement, in particular the International Longshore and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) and its ties to the Communist Party. It details the dock workers' strike in June 1953, roughly three years after the United States embarked on a bloody war on the Korean peninsula and Hawaii became a primary point of departure for supplying the battlefield of this anticommunist conflict. It argues that the prolonged repression of workers contributed to pent-up resentment that burst forth with the efflorescence of labor organizing, notably by the ILWU. In 1953, Hawaii had a population of about 500,000, and the ILWU membership was about 24,000, including the stevedores—so important for the unloading of merchandise in the island chain that was 2,400 miles from North America. Because of the varied influences of seafarers who frequently visited these islands and stevedores influenced by the ILWU, Hawaii long had developed a justified reputation for working-class consciousness, which the union was able to parlay into major gains.
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