*Video Interview by Wendy Osher
During a Congressional visit to Maui on Monday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) visited with HC&S employees and met with leaders from ILWU Local 142 (Maui/Lānaʻi/Molokaʻi Division) to discuss the transition and support for Maui’s displaced sugar workers and others affected by the closure of HC&S.
*Information courtesy Office of US Representative Tulsi Gabbard:
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard gathered with workers at Hawaii’s last sugar plantation who are in the process of being laid off this year as a result of Alexander & Baldwin’s decision to cease operations at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company. She listened to their concerns, shared information on employment, training and education opportunities, and explained what Federal assistance is available to them and their families as they work through this difficult transition.
The congresswoman answered a variety of questions from the HC&S employees and explained the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which will provide assistance to workers who lost their job due to the adverse effects of foreign trade.
“Many of the HC&S employees are heads of households with families to support and care for. The thought of losing their health benefits and primary income can be overwhelming. We are working hard to ease this transition for them by ensuring that the support coming from the U.S. Department of Labor is easily accessible,” explained Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who is also a member of the Maui Sugar Operators Work Assistance Task Force.
Since the announcement in January that HC&S would be closing up shop by the end of the year, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard continues to work closely with all the major stakeholders and her constituents on Maui to ensure those displaced receive the support and services they need during this time of transition and uncertainty.
In addition to HC&S employees, the TAA will also assist local suppliers, small farms and businesses, and others who are not employees of HC&S but whose livelihoods have been dependent on the business they do with HC&S.
“The closing of HC&S is truly the end of an era. I look forward to working together with our community to see this less as a chapter closing, and more as a new beginning. After visiting with those who are being laid off, and whose lives are about to change in a big way, I was inspired by their resilience, strength, positive morale, and their enthusiasm to work hard until their last day on the job, and then to embark on a new journey,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “These dedicated and skilled workers are not looking for sympathy or handouts; they are looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead. I look forward to working with them throughout this transition, and with the community toward creating opportunities that will best serve the people of Maui.”
The U.S. Department of Labor verified the petition for HC&S workers on March 14, 2016 and has certified that the employees, contractors, truckers, and others directly impacted by the closure will have access to TAA benefits through the Hawaiʻi Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR). They should contact the local Workforce Development Division’s One-Stop Office by emailing [email protected]  or calling (808) 984-2091  to begin accessing federal relief through this program. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard assured the displaced workers today that she will work closely with DLIR to make sure communication is smooth and accessible to them and their families.
The congresswoman also hosted meetings with healthcare professionals and first responders in an effort to improve access to care, especially in rural areas. She organized a Community Paramedicine Roundtable in Wailuku with stakeholders from Maui and across the state to learn about the challenges they face and discuss solutions to meet the needs of underserved populations.
She then met with police officers, firefighters, and then the paramedics at their stations in Lahaina to thank them for their service and to hear their thoughts on community paramedicine. They raised concerns and shared ideas on how to best serve those in need, including residents in rural areas and our homeless community.