Del Monte union
protests treatment

The company closed its Honolulu
operation, laying off 55 workers

The union representing 55 laid off workers of Del Monte Fresh Produce (Hawaii) Inc. has filed charges with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, saying that Del Monte negotiated in bad faith and refused to bargain over its decision to close its Honolulu Chilled and Frozen pineapple operation.

The International Longshore & Warehouse Union is seeking injunctive and declaratory relief for the workers, most of whom are Filipino women and men. The chilled and frozen operation was to close yesterday at 1308 Hart St. in Honolulu. Part of the operation, which prepares Ewa-grown pineapples for packing, has been moved to Sanger, Calif.

Del Monte, owned by Cayman Islands-based Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., said in April that it had 154 vacant jobs at its Oahu plantation and Kunia fresh fruit facilities that it would offer to all displaced workers.

The employees never saw a job posting afterward, said Ray Camacho, Oahu division director for the ILWU. Instead, the union believes Del Monte is bringing in low-paid foreign workers, and the union is investigating the matter.

The ILWU filed charges with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board June 12.

In a June 21 letter, a spokes-woman for Del Monte gave the union a final offer for benefits to the affected employees, and said the union would have to withdraw its charges. Del Monte's representative said if the ILWU rejected the final offer, Del Monte would provide the less substantial benefits available under the union's collective bargaining agreement.

The union rejected the offer.

"They're treating our workers as if they're Third World employees in a Third World country," Camacho said yesterday at an ILWU press conference outside the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.

A Del Monte official did not return a call seeking comment yesterday.

The Hawaii Labor Relations Board is holding hearings on the charges, said Valri Kunimoto, executive officer for the board.

Elpidio "Allen" Tumaneng, a forklift driver who said he has worked for Del Monte for 19 years, is losing his medical coverage along with his job, and he lost 40 percent of his severance pay to taxes. Tumaneng said he deserves better, and he is concerned for other workers who have expensive medical conditions.

Cresencia Bisquera, a displaced 14-year employee and a 35-year-old mother, said losing her job has her stressed out. "I'm depressed, too. For the sake of my son, I need to be strong," said Bisquera. "We deserve something."


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