Legacy of nine ILWU longshoremen in Longview lives on

Legacy of nine ILWU longshoremen in Longview lives on

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Roger Werth / The Daily News
Local 21 members elected Jake Whiteside in January for a one-year term as president, replacing Dan Coffman, who didn't run.
14 hours ago • By Brenda Blevins McCorkle(0) Comments
Nine Hawaiian longshoremen left their island home 50 years ago in search of work in Longview.

The last of the nine men, David Haluapo, passed away in 2013. Although the men are gone, their legacy remains. They raised their families here, and some passed their love of longshoring on to their descendants.

Former International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21 president Jake Whiteside is a fourth-generation longshoreman whose connection to the industry began in Hawaii with his great-grandfather.

Chris (Panis) Whiteside, Jake’s mother, said her native Filippino grandfather worked on the pier at Port Ahukini on the island of Kauai.

“They loaded sugar, bags of it, like 100-pound bags, and it was all by hand,” she said. “They didn’t have cranes, they had pulleys and whatever.”

Her father, Modesto Panis, was one of the men who came to Longview in 1964. Their home port of Port Nawiliwili was being demolished and replaced with an airport, which put the longshoremen working there out of jobs.

Chris was 13 years old. She said instead of mourning the loss of their home and his livelihood, Modesto saw it “as an opportunity to move to the mainland and make a new life.”

“They made the decision to move, and he left, along with the other eight, and came to Longview in January 1964,” she said.

Arne Auvinen was president of the local ILWU at that time. Now in his 90s, the Longview resident remembers the West Coast convention he attended where the issue of taking in the Hawaiian workers was discussed.

“We were talking about what these people were going to do. There was no other work, except for seasonal plantation work,” he said. “The union came up with a plan to try to get a certain number on the West Coast.”

Photo courtesy of Chris Whiteside
Former Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21 president Arne Auvinen, right, shows the peg board for jobs to the transplanted Hawaiian workers who came to Longview in 1964. In front, left to right, are David Haluapo, Ricky Agliam, Sam Haluapo and Ted Hashimoto, and in back, left to right, are Fred Fujiura, Clement ‘Duffy’ Telles, Harry Chow, Modesto Panis and Jonah Mawae.

In Longview, the union was sorely in need of workers, Arne said, and the new “mechanization and machines” (M&M) program was starting.

“We were going to have to fill out our ranks,” he said. “We had only 200 members, and we were putting up 400 jobs a day. We had to do something about it.”

West Coast ports from Seattle to Los Angeles took in 2,500 Hawaiian workers. The nine who came to Longview were Fred Fujiura, Clement “Duffy” Telles, Harry Chow, Panis, Jonah Mawae, Ricky Agliam, Ted Hashimoto and brothers David and Sam Haluapo.

Arne, who retired in 1985, helped the men. He took them downtown and showed them what clothing they would need for working in the colder and wetter Washington climate. He took them on jobs. He showed them what jobs were open and how the hiring system worked.

Although their fellow Local 21 members voted to accept the Hawaiians, there was some animosity among the ranks.

“There was quite a bit of prejudice,” Arne said. “Longview was a white city at that time.”

He reported the experienced longshoremen and warehousemen were coming, and “there was quite an argument at that meeting ... But the majority ruled ... and they said, ‘they are our union brothers, so we will take them in,’ ” he said.

Only Ted Hashimoto chose not to stay. Some of the others who remained, brought over their families.

Many of the men ended up living within blocks of each other, Chris said.

“We were all fairly close,” she said, adding the families gathered for parties and shared in the joys and sorrows they experienced.

Jake remembers watching his grandfather work at home and in the warehouse he ran at the port.

“I would go down with him and watch them drive around their forklifts,” Jake said. “He ran number 18 warehouse there, and we always asked Grandma to take us down there.”

When he decided to become a longshoreman in 1995, his grandfather was “ecstatic.”

“He loved being a longshoreman. He bought all these (longshoremen logo) coats, and he gave them all to me,” Jake said.

While serving as the president of Local 21, Jake attended an area conference. One of the leaders asked who was a first-, second- or third-generation worker.

“They didn’t even ask us about fourth,” he said. “So I told them that I was, and no one could believe I was fourth generation.”

Does he expect to see a fifth?

Possibly, Jake said.

“Longshoring will eventually be a great job, for a few people,” he said, adding he was able to tour a fully automated terminal in Los Angeles.

“Where it takes an average of 100 people to run a terminal (now), with that, it will take about six people,” he said.

The job has changed considerably since the days when his great-grandfather loaded sugar bags by hand, and his grandfather used a block-and-tackle (crane) to fill the hulls of ships with bulk cane sugar.

“He told me how they used to load all this stuff, and I said, ‘Well, Grandpa, it’s a lot different now. They just put it in a box, and I just take one pick and put it on the ship,’ ” Jake said, smiling.

The legacy is a constant, Chris said.

“They were so bold and had a vision,” she said. “They were the very reason why we are here and thriving.”

Brenda McCorkle is part of the Community News team and writes features for The Daily News. Reach her at 360-577-2515 or bmccorkle@tdn.com.