1979: Margaret Nona Chang

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Margaret Nona Chang (center), born in Waialua, Oʻahu on March 21, 1909, was the daughter of a Japanese carpenter.  She married Thomas Chang at age 20 and stayed at home to raise 3 children.  She began working as a packer for The Hawaiian Pineapple Company in 1937, becoming a forelady for the night shift 5 years later.  She held various jobs at Hawaiian Pine until she retired in 1973.

MK: I was wondering, you know, since you're Japanese and, you know, wartime, some Japanese had hard time certain jobs.

MC: Only thing, we didn't have too many different nationality in the cannery, more Japanese.  

MK: So in those days you used to talk Japanese sometimes?

MC: Yeah.  I spoke Japanese and I could speak Chinese little bit so when I used to work in the office, they say, Nona, you not Chinesee, Chinesee.  I said, "Me not Chinese." (Laughter).  So I used to tell Mr. Healy, I said, "You know, Mr. Healy, you supposed to pay me extra for interpreting." He laughed.

MK: In 1946 the union came in. What did you know about the union back in 1946?

MC: Just that had union and that certain, certain one going be your union steward and all that. It didn’t bother us too much

MK: When were you asked to become a member of the union?

MC: When you’re intermittent, they ask you to be a member and you sign up. Then you work for a while and then they’ll ask you to be a union steward.

MK:  I said,  No, I have enough troubles of my own without getting into that.   Some of these people they always griping and they always come up with minor things that they this and that. We don’t want to go back to the union with all those minor details and bother them when they have so many other things to do.

MK: You know, during those times, 1940's, 1950's, people used to worry about the union because they'd say, "Oh, Communists," or something.

MC: No.

MK: It never bothered you. Later on in 1947 you have your first strike. What did you do during the strike?

MC: They tell you they're striking and for you to report down there and picket, that's all. Was like a picnic, I think.

MK: It was like a picnic. Why do you say that it was like a picnic?

MK: (Laughs) Everybody joking and they singing. Then they walking around in a little circle. We didn't picket all the way. We just picket by the gate that we went.  You just go around and they talking and they laughing. Some reading paper and they have the radio on. Some Japanese people, they singing song. It wasn't for the day. So many hours, you go. Maybe you 7 o'clock to 8 o'clock or 8 o'clock to 9 o'clock. They give you hours and you go out.

MK: Were you worried---it only lasted five and a half days but were you worried in any way about what would happen?

MC: No.

MK: Did you know why you folks were striking?

MC: We just follow. (Laughs)

MK: You just follow? (Laughs)

MK: You just got an increase of 10 cents per hour, huh? What did you think about the strike after you got that result?

MC: Well, we didn't think anything much of it. I think when we went back work everybody would say, "Oh, certain, certain person came in to work, you know. No talk to them. They scab" and dis and dat.  But for our part, we didn't care because that was their business. But they, themselves felt guilty and they held back for a long time. But to us, it didn't matter. If they want to go in, fine, let 'em work. But they, themselves felt guilty for going in to work, crossing the picket line.