The doctor told my grandfather he couldn’t do plantation work because of his heart condition. He became a tailor in a town called Pahala. He would make jeans for the workers at the sugar cane mill or in the fields. [Plantation work] was very, very hard work. My uncle told me that the sugar cane cut you, you had to wear thick gloves. Back-breaking, long, long hours. Harvesting cane was tough!

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What was that like, your first few weeks on the job as a letter carrier?

Oh, remember I told you my uncles and aunts would say, "they were long, hard days?" That's what it was like, six days a week. We weren't given a day off unless there was no need for work. They called us in for as little as four hours or as many sixty hours. I can remember starting out at Wallingford and just being considered a donkey because all I did was come in ten o'clock and carry mail until five o'clock. That's all we did.

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What do you remember about the first union meeting you went to?

Well, somebody said, " geez, my boss is always picking on me." And I said, "well, tell the boss what your rights are. You don't have to stand there and be picked on." Know your rights and then fight for them yourself instead of always having somebody else come and rescue you. Know what they are and fight for yourself. You know, being a woman and a minority, and coming from a culture that doesn't say, "stand up for yourself," that was a real hard thing for me to learn how to do. But geez, it's a good thing I learned that. Life is always having to push back and struggle.

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I became more active in the union about three years ago. I became active for wages and for human rights—workers’ rights. Workers’ rights and human rights are the same to me. People are valuable, very valuable. I'm not out there for the almighty dollar. I’m out there to be treated with respect. And to respect others.

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