Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jim Akutsu Interview
Narrator: Jim Akutsu
Interviewer: Art Hansen
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 9 and 12, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-ajim-01-0019

<Begin Segment 19>

AH: Let me backtrack a little bit and ask you a couple of questions. You alluded to something, kind of passed by it -- this labor group. I don't know the situation real well at Puyallup, but I do know it pretty well at Tanforan and at Manzanar, which were other assembly centers, too, and, of course, Manzanar later became a relocation center as well. But at both of those places, when you're talking about the labor group, you're talking about a leftist group. Oftentimes they were Communist or what other Japanese Americans called "aka." And they were progressives, or internationalists, or whatever, and they often aligned themselves with the JACL -- not before the war, but once the war started -- in cooperating to get the evacuation going and to convince people that this was a necessary thing to do. Now, when you refer to the labor group, is this a code word for you to talk about these other people, or not?

JA: Well, actually, "labor group" meaning they're the cannery union people and they kind of seem to control certain groups of Japanese Americans.

AH: Are you talking about the cannery groups from up in Alaska?

JA: Yes.

AH: Okay, so these are the labor organizers?

JA: Yes, nothing to do with Communism or anything like that -- pure, labor organizers.

AH: So these are the ones who used to take not only the boys of summer, the Nisei, up to Alaska but would get the Issei and everything else, and they would get the labor crews, they were labor contractors, right?

JA: Yes.

AH: And so who were some of the big labor contractors at Puyallup?

JA: Well, I really don't know. But they were, a couple of them there who were... when they're hiring for the new hire... we'd have to go there and wait our turn and that's where we used to go down on Second and Main Street where the cannery union had their headquarters. But anyway, there was a couple of them fellows that were, I don't know how to say that, they're trying to run the camp or had something to say how it should be run, and if there's going to be any change you're going to have to go up and ask them, or JACL.

AH: Okay, so you felt there were these two powers that were contending for control of the camp?

JA: Well, there was Sakamoto and Arai was another one and Hosokawa and Minato and Takegawa on the union side.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.