March 18, 2016

Hirono Urges Labor Secretary To Quickly Review And Approve ILWU Petition For Maui Sugar Worker Assistance

Application To Provide TAA Funding For HC&S Employees Currently Under Review

Senator Mazie K. Hirono urged U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Tom Perez to expedite review and approval of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 142’s request for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Alternative TAA for Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company workers displaced by the cessation of sugar production.

“Maui’s last sugar harvest is already underway, and obtaining the assistance that affected Maui families deserve in a timely manner will require coordination on all levels,” said Senator Hirono. “I urged Secretary Perez to quickly review and approve ILWU Local 142’s petition to ensure that federal support is available to HC&S employees as they pursue new employment or education opportunities. Federal law provides that workers who petition for TAA benefits from firms named by the International Trade Commission as being impacted by foreign trade—as HC&S has been—will be eligible to receive benefits.”

The closing of sugar production will mean the eventual laying off of 675 workers on Maui by the end of the year. TAA includes training, job search assistance, and other resources for workers who have lost their jobs due to foreign trade, but each application for TAA must be approved by the Secretary of Labor before workers can access this program.

Please click here for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program brochure.

View a copy of the letter here and read the full text below:

The Honorable Tom Perez

Secretary

U.S. Department of Labor

200 Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20210

Re:      Workers of Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company (HC&S), Puunene, HI - Petition for Trade Adjustment Assistance and Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance – Petition Case #ETA-9042

Dear Secretary Perez:

 I am writing in strong support of the petition filed by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 142 seeking Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Alternative TAA in case #ETA-9042; Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company (HC&S), Puunene, HI. The expedient consideration of this petition is requested for TAA and ATAA benefits for the trade-impacted workers at the HC&S.

On January 6, 2016, HC&S’s parent company Alexander & Baldwin announced its intention to cease all sugar production and gradual layoff of 675 workers as the 2016 harvest is completed. The impact of this announcement is already being felt, as 88 workers were laid off on Monday, March 7.  HC&S is Hawaii’s last remaining sugar operation and its closing ends a 145-year history of a mainstay of the local economy. HC&S’s facility has been a major employer in the County of Maui, and the loss of economic activity at the facility will impact the community deeply.

  Alexander & Baldwin has stated the company could no longer continue the sugar operations due to its economic losses. The federal government has also recognized unfair competition as a serious concern for the sugar industry. On October, 2015, the U.S. International Trade Commission determined that imports of sugar to Mexico – subsidized by the Mexican government – materially injured the U.S. sugar industry. All six commissioners voted unanimously in support of this conclusion. (Investigation Numbers 701-TA-513 and 731-TA-1249). 

The petition filed by ILWU Local 142 seeks Trade Adjustment Assistance under the group eligibility criteria established by the Trade Act of 1974, as amended (19 U.S.C. 2272). Specifically, the firm’s decision will create a significant number of workers losing their jobs, and increased imports or global production shifts contributed to the worker separations. In addition, many of the impacted workers are above age 50 and have specialized skills that may not easily transfer to other jobs. These workers should receive Alternative TAA to help make up the difference between wages at their current jobs and new wages.

  Again, I urge you to expeditiously consider the ILWU’s petition and hope that you will reach a favorable TAA and ATAA determination for the workers at the HC&S sugar production facility.

Mahalo nui loa for your prompt and fair consideration of this request.