The first batch of Hawaii’s last sugar cane plantation workers are being laid off

Stephen Pagano, Reporter

Earlier this year Alexander & Baldwin, the last sugar cane producer in Hawaii, announced that they will be shutting down their Maui plantation. The sugar cane business has been in the state for over 180 years. What was once the heart of Hawai’i’s economy will soon be history. Alexander & Baldwin has been on Maui for 145 years. C&S has become a way of life for some workers having generations of workers. And now for the first time in their lives they’re forced to find new paths.

“People are slowly starting to look forward to their future,” Joseph Aquino, agent with International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142, said to Hawaii News Now.

Joseph Aquino is working with the workers to make their transitions more comfortable. He says that the workers are mainly concerned about their medical coverage.

“A couple of them just bought homes and they’re really shocked and sad because they thought they had a future with HC&S and this closing just set them back,” Aquino said.

Wesley Bissen, who is a 3rd generation sugar worker, isn’t part of the first round of layoffs but has empathy for those who are being laid off while he thinks back at his 30+ years of service. Bissen Said that the last harvest is bittersweet for those whose lives have been so closely tied to sugar.

“I see more effort more detail to the job at hand,” Bissen said. “A little bit excited, kind of anxious to get in all this cane and do a good job before we leave.”

Alexander & Baldwin plans to lay off everyone by the end of 2016.