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McKelvey Voices Support for Displaced HC&S Worker Assistance Bill

March 4, 2016, 2:28 PM HST (Updated March 4, 2016, 2:28 PM) · 34 Comments
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 HC&S sugar cane fields cover the Central Maui plain. The company announced plans to stop farming sugar at the end of 2016, and will instead pursue a diversified agricultural model for the 36,000 acres presently in cultivation. Photo by Wendy Osher.

HC&S sugar cane fields cover the Central Maui plain. The company announced plans to stop farming sugar at the end of 2016, and will instead pursue a diversified agricultural model for the 36,000 acres presently in cultivation. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Representative Angus McKelvey was among the House lawmakers that voiced support for a bill drafted to assist workers at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company, who will be displaced by the planned cessation of sugar operations on Maui.

House Bill 2186 HD1 passed third reading in the House of Representatives and has been accepted by the Senate who will start deliberating on the bill.

HC&S began operations on Maui 140 years ago and is the last remaining sugar plantation in the state.

HC&S announced that it will stop farming sugar at the end of 2016, and will instead pursue a diversified agricultural model for the 36,000 acres presently in cultivation.

In his comments to the journal submission for HB2186, McKelvey said, “This is a tragic loss for our community and our hearts, prayers and thoughts are with the employees during this difficult time. Sadly, closings of sugar plantations are not new and many well know the struggles families face when this happens, especially in families where members have worked for the plantation for generations.”

The company is credited with contributing to Maui’s heritage that spurred ethnic diversity and the business community present today.

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In voicing support for the bill, McKelvey said, “Many of these loyal and dedicated workers affected have worked for the company for decades, have English as a second language, are not computer literate, need assistance putting together resumes and applying for other positions, and need significant retraining to qualify for the jobs available. This funding will be of great assistance in that regard as our community looks to address those needs, along with the employee’s financial, health, mental health, and social needs.

McKelvey continued saying, “The announcement by HC&S on the same day as a similar announcement by Hamakua Springs of their closure clearly demonstrates the challenges faced by commercial agriculture. Yet, Hawaiʻi wants to see agriculture as part of their plan for increased self-sufficiency, and sustainability.”

McKelvey also provided a list of additional reasons he supports the measure including the following:

1. The reality of HC&S’s shutting down hits home with the first wave of layoffs on March 7th affecting 95 employees culminating with their entire workforce of 675 being reduced to 15 by the end of the year.

2. While the transitioning to diversified agriculture on HC&S’s lands may afford these workers future employment, these plans coming to fruition are years away. The ramifications of HC&S’s shutdown are exponential and affect more than the 675 workers directly impacted therefore it is crucial to get these individuals back to work.

3. Training, retraining and workforce assistance programs offered by state and federal agencies are imperative in assisting the worker’s directly impacted as well as those indirectly impacted. Furthermore, according to the US Department of Labor Secretary Perez, these job-driven training programs have a positive track record of providing jobs in many different industries.

McKelvey said he strongly support House Bill 2186 HD1, and hopes to make the transition as smooth as possible for affected families, neighbors, and community members.

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