A fulfilling job filling cartons at Meadow Gold


POSTED: Monday, October 27, 2008

Darren Galiza has been working at the Meadow Gold Dairies milk plant in Honolulu for almost 20 years, and he enjoys it so much, he says, that he'd like to keep working there until he retires.





Who: Darren Galiza

Title: Filler operator


Job: Operates equipment that fills half-gallon cartons with milk, juice and shake mixes



Galiza initially worked any shift he could at the plant on Cedar Street in Makiki, starting as a night loader. Then about 13 years ago, he snagged a steady shift as a filler operator, running the equipment that fills the half-gallon-sized Meadow Gold products such as milk, juices and shake mixes.

Coincidentally, that was also about the time he was planning to move to the Big Island, where he had been hoping to find a position at the company's processing plant in Hilo.

“;I thought I was going transfer. But time just wen fly by, and I'm still flying,”; he said last week with a laugh.

Galiza was referring to the fact that he actually commutes by plane to Oahu from the Big Island every Tuesday, to start at midnight his four-day, 10-hour-a-day workweek.

While on Oahu, Galiza stays with his parents, who have a home on the North Shore.

Back on the Big Island, Galiza lives in Kalopa Mauka, where he enjoys life with his wife, the former Cheryl Ann Kelii, who is deli manager of the Sack N Save in Kailua-Kona.

“;When I land, I land in Kona, so when she's pau work, she picks me up and we drive home,”; Galiza explained.

Darren and Cheryl Ann have four children—daughters Crystal and Caroline and son Lokahi, all adults, and son Dallas, a senior at Honokaa High School.

Galiza, 44, is a graduate of Mililani High School.

Besides Oahu and the Big Island, Meadow Gold has plants on Kauai and Maui, and employs about 400 people statewide. Owned by Dean Foods, it was started in 1897 by seven Oahu dairy farms, later known as the Dairymen's Association. It became Meadow Gold in 1959.

Mark Coleman: What is your work title at Meadow Gold Dairies?

Darren Galiza: Machine operator for the half-gallons.

Q:What does that mean you do?

A: I'm the fill operator for the half-gallon machine ... you know, the cartons. I fill juice, milk and the mixes.

Q: The mixes?

A: Yeah, we used to do that for Jack In The Box—the shake mix—but we don't do that anymore. I don't know what happened. I also usually do the yogurt mix, and for Bubbie's and Cold Stone.

Q: Bubbie's Ice Cream?

A: Yeah, and Cold Stone Creamery.

Q: What do you supply those guys with?

A: The shake mix. It's a base mix, and then they add their flavors to 'em.

Q: So how long have you had your position?

A: Shoots, I've had that almost 20 years. Like from the middle of '89. Well, actually I was a reliever between two older men, and then they retired. I was jumping around, making juice, receiving milk on Sundays, when had the farms, the local milk, I was doing all that. But you know how things change now. The farmers went out.

Q: So where does the milk come from now?

A: California—and the Big Island. That's the only fresh milk get now, from the Big Island.

Q: So when did you get the steady shift?

A: About 10 years ago. I had a steady job, but you gotta do the relief work first before you can get anything good. I was working Saturday, Sundays—that was my schedule. But I enjoyed it. But when I switched, I enjoyed it even more. But right when I got my steady position and got my weekends off, I moved to the Big Island.

Q: How does that work for you?

A: I thought I was going transfer, but time just wen fly by, and I'm still flying. (Laughter) It's hard to leave this family at Meadow Gold. I enjoy working here. And my job is sweet now. (Laughter)

Q: What was your first job there?

A: I was a loader, when I first got hired. I was a night loader. When you first come into the company, it's kind of labor work, and then you bid for jobs when people retire or move around. When you load, it's like with one hook. You gotta pull 'em off the conveyer, and it's kind of heavy. Pull 'em into the truck, or off to the side, as the plastic crates come off the machine. One stack could be close to 300 pounds.

Q: So you started with the company when it was located at the corners of Young and Keeaumoku?

A: No. That was the ice cream plant. I used to work there on my day off. I'd go over there and work some overtime, when guys were sick. I was kind of the relief person, if you wanted to get some extra work. But now, with the economy, everything is slowing down. So we just try and make our 10 hours.

Q: You have a 10-hour day?

A: Yeah, and a three-day weekend—for go home, yeah? So I stay from Saturday afternoon, and fly in on Tuesday night. I take the last flight.

Q: Where do you stay when you're on Oahu?

A: Sunset.

Q: On the North Shore?

A: Yeah, I stay right off Pipeline.

Q: You surf, too?

A: No. I get one rooster farm on the Big Island. I raise chickens. I get one here, too. My dad does the breeding.

You see, I thought I was going transfer. They get one plant in Hilo. But right now, everybody love their job, so no movement. (Laughter) Right now, you gotta love your job.

Q: What time do you start your shift?

A: Twelve midnight.

Q: Do they make ice cream here still?

A: No. Everything comes from the mainland. I guess the costs for run the plant. Was cheaper to just send them through the container, 'cause the shelf-life—frozen, yeah? But you cannot tell. The quality is good.

Q: So that plant you're in, is that where you've always worked?

A: Yeah. That plant is maybe 30 years, 40 years, I think. I'm not sure.

Q: I was told that you've had just about every job there is in the Meadow Gold milk plant.

A: Yeah. I did some clean up, receive. Only thing I never did really too much was pasteurize milk. I did the juice pasteurize.

Q: What's that involve?

A: That's like when they pasteurize the milk, then run 'em though the homogenizer and the press and chill 'em down. They go through a heat temperature, and then they cool them off.

I've also never worked upstairs. We get two levels. The top is the processing, and the bottom is the machines. The filler operators are downstairs.

Q: So as a filler operator, how many half-gallons you figure you fill every day?

A: I do maybe about 10,000 gallons of juice a night. Some nights more, some nights less.

Q: What about milk?

A: Yeah, milk, I probably end the milk and start the juice.

Q: So when you come in, they're ending the milk shift?

A: Yeah, and I gotta do the clean up and start the juice.

Q: Orange juice?

A: Orange juice, grape juice , pineapple-orange, raspberry tea, peach tea, calcium-fortified OJ, mango-orange, passion-orange, Meadow Gold Passion Orange (Guava), or Meadow Gold POG. Used to be the Haleakala POG, yeah? But now it's Meadow Gold POG. It's better. Ho' man, it's my favorite juice right now. (Laughter) They get 'em in Costco—the POGs. Ho', try 'dat POG, boy. Good stuff!

Q: Do you get to take any of that home with you?

A: No.

Q: Are there any other jobs in the plant that you would like to have or do?

A: No, I'm fine right now.

Q: Did you ever work at the old Foremost milk plant out on Dillingham Boulevard?

A: No. I went there, just for grab cases, but I never did work out at Foremost. Kind of sad that they went down.

Q: Working on a production line, does your job ever get boring for you?

A: No, because you know, you get one guy next to you, so you gotta keep 'em funny and safe. (Laughter) We try make the night go by fast. But now it's good. Especially working next to people you enjoy working next to. We all get along. And it's a good company, too. They always take care of the workers. It's unreal. Benefits is good. They get luncheons, family outings and stuff. Not every company going do that. It's unreal.

Q: Do you have to punch a time clock?

A: Yeah, we stay on a finger ID Kronos clock. You put your finger in, so they clock you in and clock you out. That way, I guess, nobody can tamper with it.

Q: How often do you get breaks?

A: Every two hours. We get one reliever to come break you.

Q: Besides the paycheck and your benefits, what's the best thing you like about your job?

A: Just the atmosphere of working with the people around. Everybody's cool, eh? So I kind of enjoy going work. It's kind of like coming home to your family. When I'm on the Big Island, I miss work, and when I'm here, I miss the Big Island. (Laughter)

Q: How long do you think you'll stay with Meadow Gold?

A: Till I retire. (Laughter) I don't know how long I'll be flying. I'm waiting for a transfer. I'm waiting for somebody to retire in Hilo. It's getting expensive now to fly. Since Aloha went down, prices went up. But I do get flier miles.