Laid off Maui sugar plantation workers face tough year ahead - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Laid off Maui sugar plantation workers face tough year ahead

HC&S workers reflect on the good times with the company HC&S workers reflect on the good times with the company
PUUNENE, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) -

It’s been an emotional week for Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. workers.

On Wednesday, HC&S owner Alexander & Baldwin announced its plans to phase out sugar operations by the end of the year.

Many workers said Thursday they considered HC&S more than just a job.

"Majority of these people I'm not going to be seeing around as much as I see them every day,” said Wesley Bissen, who has been with the company for 35 years. “It's like losing a family member, a lot of them. Actually 600 of them."

His family roots run deep at HC&S. Bissen's grandfather, his dad and many of his uncles all worked at the company.

This year will mark the very last sugar harvest in Hawaii, ending the company's 145-year journey. Some 675 employees will be laid off beginning in March.

Workers tell Hawaii News Now the company broke the news to them on Monday; they'll get a severance package and employment assistance.

"When I got that packet I knew it wasn't good," said Carl Rackley, who’s been with the company for 12 years.

Workers said they knew the end of sugar was coming, just not this soon.

"I know we weren't doing good and I don't like to blame the company," Bissen said. "We had our chance, we had our chance to do better."

Now, workers are shifting their focus to the future.

"I will apply for other jobs,” said Rackley. “I like the job I do but I know I'll never find another job like it. There's nothing on this island, that's for sure, that deals with the magnitude of equipment we deal with. This is the biggest and this is it and any other job is just not going to be the same."

Bissen added, "There's no sad feeling. Everything sunk in already and I'm ready to move on with whatever comes up."

The workers plan to meet with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to discuss next steps.

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