Dwight Yoshiharu Takamine
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
My late father, Yoshito Takamine, a Nisei, was my role model as I was growing up in Honoka‘a, a rural community on the Big Island. He was the eldest son of immigrant parents from Okinawa who struggled and worked hard to raise a family of 13 children. My mother, Kimiko Toma Takamine, also is Nisei. She was one of 10 children born to Okinawan parents who likewise faced challenging working conditions to feed their family. Both my parents had seen how their own parents not only worked hard for very little pay, but also made sacrifices at many levels, including living under very tough conditions. These conditions included physical and mental hardship at work, a condition imposed on many other workers.
My father’s first job after graduating from Honoka‘a High School was working for the plantation. This soon evolved into working for the ILWU, Local 142, the union that represented the interests of the sugar workers in Hawai‘i. His decision was prompted by what he saw as mistreatment of sugar workers and their families, as well as what he heard from friends and family. Combining this with the values he learned by growing up in a large plantation family where everyone had to help each other, he chose a path that would allow him to play a role in changing and improving these conditions.
The International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union, Local 142, whose motto is, “An Injury to One is an Injury to All,” played a key leadership role in the labor movement in Hawai‘i. It was the first union to bring sugar workers of different ethnic groups together, along with their families, during a strike situation. This maximized their collective strength and demonstrated the kinds of goals and even the kind of hope that becomes more achievable when you work as part of a larger unified group.
In 1958, my father decided to seek public office. He turned a narrow victory that year into a 26-year legislative career as a member of the state House of Representatives. Again, the principles of interdependence and collective strength, whether among the workers living in the plantation camps or part of a political action strategy, were reinforced as important themes.
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