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Hawaii International Vice President Wesley Furtado (not pictured) and Overall Longshore Unit Chairperson Nate Lum (center) show waterfront operations to All Japan Docworkers Union (Zenkowan) President Akinobu Itoh and International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Asia Pacific Regional Secretary Shigeru Wada. Itoh recalls the 50- year relationship between his union and the ILWU. Japanese transport unions have taken the lead in Japan in building support for the ILWU’s struggle at the Pacific Beach Hotel.

HONOLULU—Akinobu Itoh, President of Zenkowan (All Japan Dockworkers Union), Shigeru Wada, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Asia Pacific Regional Secretary, ITF inspector Shigeru Fujiki, Hirohiko Takasu and Emiko Aono visited Hawaii from November 29 to December 3, 2008, to show Japan’s support for the Pacific Beach Hotel workers’ struggle for justice.

While in Hawaii, the Japanese delegation visited the waterfront and met with Hawaii lawmakers, Hawaii branches of Japan travel agencies, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association, Hawaii labor leaders, and rank-and-file members of the Pacific Beach Hotel.

On December 1, 2008, Itoh, Wada, Fujiki, Takasu, Aono, a number of State Legislators, and ILWU officers joined a rally at the hotel from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. They attempted to deliver petitions signed by nearly 65,000 Japanese union members. Hotel management refused to accept the petitions.

One year ago, on December 1, 2007, HTH Corporation refused to recognize the ILWU as the workers’ union, sacked over two dozen employees who supported the union, and illegally used fear and discrimination to discourage union activity among the remaining employees.

Shortly after Dec. 1, 2007, a community coalition formed “Justice at the Beach” and called for a boycott of HTH hotels until management obeys the law and respects the rights of the workers. The boycott campaign spread to Japan as the Pacific Beach Hotel draws 80 percent of their business from Japanese visitors. 

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Over a hundred supporters stand in front of the Pacific Beach Hotel to urge owner HTH Corp. to obey the law and respect the workers’ rights to unionize.

Zenkowan President Akinobu Itoh pledged solidarity with the ILWU.

Ah Quon McElrath passes away; ILWU mourns loss of great leader

Ah Quon McElrath, retired ILWU social worker and community activist, passed away on December 11, 2008, at Kaiser Medical Center at the age of 92, just four days shy of her birthday.

AQ, as she was fondly known by many, was a pioneer in labor and community organizing. She dedicated more than seven decades to community service, education, and the ILWU and its members. She helped organize workers into the union and counseled ILWU members and their families during the tough times, like the strikes of the ’40s and ’50s. Before and after her retirement in 1981, she worked tirelessly to advance the rights of working people and the disenfranchised. An outspoken advocate and a fiery orator, AQ devoted her life to the cause of social justice. Most recently, achieving universal health care was her focus and passion.

A fund is being established in AQ’s name to honor her commitment to member education and the importance of collective action in a democratic society.

A Celebration of Life is being planned for late February 2009 in keeping with AQ’s and the family’s wishes.

Look for a full story on AQ’s life and accomplishments in the next issue of the VOICE of the ILWU.