U.S. Control Over Puerto Rican Labor Complaints
This chapter examines how Puerto Ricans in Hawaiʻi filed labor complaints and protests. It shows that, unlike other labor groups in Hawaiʻi, Puerto Rican intra-colonials never had a dedicated local government representative—a leadership vacuum that resulted in both negative and positive effects on the Puerto Rican community in the islands. It describes the slow, cumbersome, and apathetic bureaucratic colonial communication hierarchy that Puerto Rican laborers had to endure in their home region, Washington, D.C., and the Territory of Hawaiʻi when they filed complaints about life in the islands. This is evident in the case of Pedro Guzman and twenty-five other Puerto Ricans who filed their complaint in 1919. The absence of an effective regional representative, coupled with the hierarchical grievance process, meant that Puerto Rican intracolonial needs were often ignored or disregarded. However, the lack of an official leader in the islands also gave Puerto Rican labor migrants a degree of control and independence over their labor experiences in Hawaiian sugar plantations.
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