The plantation era was both good and bad, but the hope is that the good aspects of plantation life can be rekindled, and the values, lessons and spirit of community will be perpetuated. Our children and grandchildren deserve no less.




The Union Hall Historical Committee

The Honokaa Historical Committee was started in 2021 by a passionate group of former ILWU members, Hawaiian historians and locals that are deep-rooted in the history of the Hamakua Coast Sugar industry. They all share and appreciate the role the ILWU Union Hall played in shaping the history of Hawaii and the quality of life and values for the hundreds of families and their friends in Honokaa and along the Hamakua Coast for the past 68 years.

Dwight Takamine

Dwight Takamine was a practicing attorney of over 30 years before he served in the Hawaii State House from 1984-2008. He then joined the Hawaii State Senate in 2008. He served in that position, representing the 1st District, until his appointment as Director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.  Takamine was named Director of Labor and Industrial Relations by Governor Neil Abercrombie on November 30, 2010. His appointment was confirmed by the Hawaii Senate on February 12, 2011. The director heads the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the state agency that administers Hawaii’s labor regulations, its unemployment insurance and workforce development programs and produces research and statistics regarding the state labor market. 

Joanne Kealoha

Joanne Kealoha was the social worker for the ILWU Local 142 for more than 30 years. She assisted members with “off-the-job” issues, including support through layoffs, the first major one being the closure of Hamakua Sugar in 1994. She helped ILWU members transition from old jobs to new opportunities, all in partnership with public, private, and community resources. Joanne retired in 2017 and now volunteers as staff for the ILWU Memorial Association, which owns all ILWU properties in Hawaii.

Gerald DeMello

Gerald DeMello is the owner of the historic Ferreira Building (1927) in Honokaa and is actively involved with helping to build civic pride and the restoration of Honokaa Town for the past 20 years. Gerald serves on the Hawaii Historical Places Review Board and HTA (2011-2018) appointed to State Board by the Governor.

Ross Stephenson

Ross Stephenson PhD, is the co-author of historical reference books Honokaa Town and Honolulu Town (Arcadia Publishing), as wells as the Coordinator, Historic Honokaa Town Project and formerly Keeper of the Hawaii Register of Historic Places and Hawaii State Historic Preservation Division.

Lee West

Lee West has over 35 years of entrepreneurial experience in various businesses and strategic advisory capacities in technology, investing, and measuring impacts on women’s empowerment that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation, resilience, and food security. 

Sandy Takahashi

Sandy Takahashi was born in Honoka’a and raised in Pa’auhau. She is a graduate of Honoka’a High School and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. After obtaining an art degree, Sandy became a licensed real estate agent for over 20 years in Honolulu and was in charge of several property management divisions during her career. Sandy moved back to Pa’auhau in 2018 and is active in the community serving as a volunteer for the Hamakua Jodo Mission and the Honoka’a Heritage Center.

Dr. Momi Naughton

Dr. Momi Naughton has spent her life connecting culture, communities, and museums. After completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Momi earned a master’s degree in anthropology from Western Washington University in 1983. In 1985 she received a Kellogg Grant to study a team approach to exhibit development, this approach was further bolstered when in 1990, Momi received a Fulbright Cultural Exchange Grant to go to Aotearoa (New Zealand) to study the Maori bicultural model for museums. Momi received her doctorate in museum and heritage communications from Simon Frasier University in 2002 and after a position as curator of Anna Ranch archive and now is retired from her position as head of the Honokaa Heritage Center

Laura Ruby

Laura Ruby is a 2015 Hawaii Living Treasure Honoree and a 2008 recipient of the Hawai’i Individual Artist Fellowship (the highest honor in the visual arts). She taught art and honors at the University of Hawaii for 34 years, and she edited the book Mo‘ili‘ili–The Life of a Community (2005) and co-authored the books Honolulu Town (2012) and Honokaa Town (2015) with Ross W. Stephenson and currently is nationally recognized artist and writer at Historic Honoka’a Town Project.

Nicole Garcia

Nicole Garcia is currently the director of the Honokaʻa Heritage Center. Prior to opening the new heritage center in Honokaʻa town in 2021, she worked at the Heritage Center of the Kō Education Center under the direction of Dr. Momi Naughton. Nicole also works with the Hamakua Jodo Mission, Camp Tarawa Museum Foundation where she has presented at the Fifth Marine Division World War II Veterans’ Reunion in Champaign, Illinois and New Orleans, Louisiana. Nicole earned her Masters Degree in Heritage Management at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

Joe Costa

Joe worked for the Hamakua Sugar Company until its closing in 1994 and then worked for the ILWU Memorial Association responsible for the Jack Wayne Hall building. Joe is a lifelong resident of Honokaa and currently serves as an Advisor to the Union Hall Historical Committee. 

People of ILWU union hall

The Union Hall Historical Committee honors the many laborers, union leaders, and community supporters who toiled and whose efforts led to improving Hawaiʻi’s working conditions during Hawaiʻi’s plantation era. The Committee will document oral and written histories of the individual struggles and successes. Our goal is to rekindle the values, lessons, and spirit of community in each story and share them with present and future generations.

Ah Quon McElrath

ILWU union activist, labor leader, and social worker

Harry Bridges

First President of the ILWU

Guy Fujimura

Secretary Treasurer of the ILWU

Yoshito Takamine

Hawaii House of Representatives and ILWU labor leader

ILWU/Jack Wayne Hall Building

Jack Wayne Hall (1915-1971)
Hawaiʻi’s labor history is inextricably linked with Jack Wayne Hall and the ILWU Hall. The ILWU left Hawaiʻi with a record of labor advocacy and achievements that transformed its working class. Hall arrived in Hawaiʻi in 1935 the same year that the barriers that made labor organizing illegal were lifted by the U.S. Congress with the passage of the National Labor Relations Act: but even with the passage of this Act, labor organizing was difficult–anyone who did union organizing was “black balled.” Hall was ILWU 142 Hawaiʻi Regional Director from 1944 until 1969. He then became ILWU International Vice President and Director until his death in 1971.
History views Hall as an exemplary labor organizer and inspirational leader. He organized plantation workers and reached out to Hawaiʻi’s longshoreman and pineapple workers and messaged the idea of union solidarity representing the working people of all ethnicities. Primarily through his vision and leadership the ILWU gained in collective strength and became a major driver that helped to successfully transform Hawaiʻi’s labor force, economy and politics. Today all Hawaiʻi reaps the benefits of the Hawaiʻi labor movement and here on Hawaiʻi Island Jack Wayne Hall is honored in Honokaa Town, a community that is steeped in labor history; Hall is credited with being the single most important person to help build the ILWU in Hawaiʻi into the democratically run, politically active union that it is today.
Thus, it is very fitting for the ILWU to have named their Honokaʻa Union Hall after Jack Wayne Hall a leader that epitomized the legacy and labor accomplishments of the ILWU. (Gerald De Mello, unpublished manuscript, 2015; NHERC, 2016)
(Gerald De Mello, unpublished manuscript, 2015)Labor justice and equitable living conditions in Hawaiʻi for the many ethnic groups including the Hawaiians, and the immigrant groups of Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Puerto Ricans, Filipinos, and Koreans, among others working on commercial plantations, was a long time in coming.
During the course of sugar strikes, it became evident that inter-ethnic organization was crucial to the labor movement’s success; it took two decades to break this ethnic barrier, resulting in a social revolution that united workers of all ethnicities.
The 1958 Aloha Strike, which lasted four months, was damaging. Thirteen thousand and seven hundred workers struck, the sugar production fell by 50 percent, but the sugar cane was watered. So, both the ILWU and the sugar planters moved to reduce their adversarial role. Contract negotiations were conducted off-the-record, and grievance committees were formed in the spirit of cooperation between the two groups.
The 1994 Shut Down Before the Final Harvest the Honokaʻa unit was called to a meeting at the Jack Wayne Hall building and told that the Hāmākua plantation was bankrupt and would be shutting down. The trustee appointed to see the final distribution of Hāmākua Sugar Company assets put the union on same footing as vendors waiting for payment of goods and services. The plantation workers were understandably concerned. When the severance package was negotiated the union received a percentage from the proceeds of last harvest. George Martin and other union officials asked “What were we going to do with the unit after the final harvest? What would we do with funds and how would we distribute them to the members?
A half-million dollars was allocated for our unit.” (George Martin ILWU Business Agent. Interview, 2016) Martin advocated carving out some money for pensioners with 30 years and more of experience. Thirty-three million, three hundred and thirty-three thousand and three hundred and thirty-three dollars went to three pensioners clubs. The union officials continued the discussion with the active members at the union hall. It was decided that those who had been working for 20 years or less would receive a proportional share determined by a formula based on the length of service (in months)–a proportional distribution.
The Last Harvest…the trucks wen come by here, the last truck they going take in the morning went through here, was tooting the horn with all the other cars, and the people that were living in the plantation bin follow up with them. They had parked the car down by the town, the truck, I mean. And that was very sad. It’s just like somebody had died at that time, you know.” (Maria Fernandez Figueroa. Oral History. Center for Oral History, University of Hawaiʻi, 1996) (Please see the Honokaʻa National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Study for more information on sugar plantations in-and-around Honokaʻa, the workers, and their working and living conditions.)

Events at the ILWU Hall

The ILWU is part of big picture of Honokaʻa Town. When plantation works wages rose as a result of strong union contracts, so too did the town’s economy. The union and management found it beneficial to work together. Labor Day and the Fourth of July holidays had the support of both, sponsoring games and food. Christmas activities involved joint programs some plantations giving away turkeys or hams and foodie bags for the children. The unions had softball teams associated with the plantations and uniforms and equipment were provided by the plantations. The plantations sponsored Boy Scout troops. Most importantly, in continuing the spirit of solidarity, the plantations allowed union “get out the vote” activities during work time. The ILWU Hall was and continues to be the political staging location for union endorsed candidates. Entertainment events, weddings, and social gatherings are a part of the ILWU Hall history. The grievance committee, meeting at the hall, encouraged members to talk out their issues and concerns.
ILWU union activist, labor leader, and social worker, Ah Quon McElrath, gave a presentation on dental benefits to ILWU Local 142 members at the union hall in 1963. (Some of the members are front row: Sakai and Okazaki and second row: Kato.) The Jack Wayne Hall building has served three purposes: its primary role as the scene of labor organizing and strike support, a place for general community organizing, and a social center.
Refreshments at a union meeting. (Some of the members at this union meeting are front row: left side, Anthony Gomes, Sandra Gomes; mid-row, Fred Holshu and Mrs. Holshu; Standing in the back left side: Kamakawiwiole, middle, Dominic Yagon.
A meeting held in the ILWU Hall featuring Hawaiʻi County Economic Development Corporation and the Honokaʻa Ohana Kitchen.

Hāmākua folks selling crafts and food in the union hall. (n.d.)

Peggy Tanimoto (second from left) and others gave a hula presentation in the hall. This was just one of the many entertainment activities to take place in the large Quonset hut. (n.d.)
Dwight Takamine supporters thanking voters for returning the legislator to the State Capitol. Many of the campaigns were staged in the ILWU Hall. (n.d.)
A union display in the Honokaʻa High School gym. (n.d.)
The NHERC Heritage Center is a depository of Hāmākua history, including photographs, documents, artifacts, musical recordings, oral histories, theme displays, and other media that capture Honokaʻa Town’s past. In this photo, members of the ILWU (possibly Arilo Mina in the back) examine displays at NHERC. The facility is on the ground level across from Honokaʻa Park.
ILWU President Harry Bridges, seen here with Christian and Peggy Tanimoto at the Honokaʻa People’s Theatre, was an experienced west coast labor organizer, who had strengthened the coast union by organizing beyond the docks into industries that fed shipping. This photo was taken either just before or after Bridges’ speech. As the theatre is the largest venue on the Hāmākua Coast seating over 500 it is likely that the event was a very important one for the union and townspeople. (n.d.)