On May 9, 1909, Japanese workers on the Aiea Plantation walked off their jobs, demanding higher wages and improved working conditions. Japanese workers had been imported to work on sugar plantations for the previous 15 to 20 years, to replace Chinese workers who began organizing for better wages and working conditions. The Chinese workers were imported to replace native Hawaiian, who had died off in alarming numbers since their exposure to European diseases in 1798; many who survived the invasion of the microbes succumbed to overwork when sugar cultivation was introduced to the islands.
By early June, some 7,000 Japanese workers and their families were on strike on Oahu. On June 12, these strikers were charged with inciting disorder. On the previous day, three strike leaders--Makino, Negoro, and Soga, according to the New York Times--were arrested. A large crowd of strikers peacefully assembled outside the jail in Honolulu, chearing loudly when any of the three appeared.
The strike continued into August, with the Hawaiian Sugar Growers Association hiring strikebreakers from the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere--and paying them $1.50 a day. That was more than double what Japanese workers were being paid at the time ($.60 a day), and fifty percent more than the $1.00 a day the Japanese workers were asking for. By the end of the month, most Japanese workers were back on the job, working under the new lower wage.