The Final Days Of Hawaiian Sugar
December 17, 2016
Fermin Domingo, 61, climbs up the side of a sugar cane hauler for the last time. The haul truck driver has worked at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (HC&S) company for the past 40 years, harvesting and hauling sugar cane to the mill. This is the last of Hawaii's sugar mills, and it too, is closing. Domingo and hundreds of other co-workers have gathered to wrap up the final harvest and say goodbye to a crop that shaped the islands.
Domingo fires up the engine and the truck slowly rumbles toward the mill, its tires churning through thick mud. It stops at the base of a conveyor belt and a giant crane hooks the final load of Maui sugar cane. Cheers break out from the hundreds of workers standing nearby. "I came here when I was 18 from the Philippines," says Domingo. "I joined the company and I started harvesting. It was fun working out there, but we're at the end and I don't know what to do later."
For over a century, the sugar industry dominated Hawaii's economy. But that changed in recent decades as the industry struggled to keep up with the mechanization in mills on mainland U.S. That and rising labor costs have caused Hawaii's sugar mills to shut down, shrinking the industry to this one last mill.
Bill Cavilla is one of 675 workers who will lose their jobs once this operation closes by the end of the year. "It's just an emotional thing," he says. "Just realizing it's going to end."................