Aid for Del Monte workers advances
How much money the state will set aside is still not certain
Some 700 pineapple workers who are losing their jobs as a result of Del Monte Fresh Produce's decision to leave Hawaii are getting some help from the state Legislature.
How much help is still being determined.
A bill aimed at helping the Kunia workers by using state funds to provide rent subsidies, low-interest loans and other types of aid advanced through the Senate Consumer Protection and Housing Committee.
The amounts for how much money would be set aside for the workers was left blank.
"We basically wanted to have a bill in place through which the Legislature would provide assistance," said committee Chairman Ron Menor (D, Mililani).
Del Monte announced earlier this month that it would stop planting pineapple in Kunia by Sunday, with plans to leave the state after its current crop is harvested sometime in mid-2008.
Lawmakers said they met last week with representatives from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142, which represents the workers, on emergency action that the Legislature could take.
Del Monte officials said they would work with the union on finding jobs for displaced workers and possibly transferring the company's employee housing to the workers.
Menor asked the union to keep his committee informed on how negotiations are progressing and how much assistance the workers might need from the Legislature.
Gov. Linda Lingle said it is too early to say how much money the state would be able to put up to assist the workers. She added that it is not unusual for taxpayers dollars to be used to support specific groups of people.
She said her main goal is to ensure that the housing be saved.
"There are a variety of approaches we could take, and we do target special groups at different times, so it's something that has been a part of state policy over time," she said. "The bottom line for us is we will use all of our resources and authority to stop that housing from either being bulldozed or from leaving the market.
"We have to keep that housing available. Exactly how we'll do it we'll define that over the course of this session."