Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023 |
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Amfac sugar workers — and the son of an
ex-employee — carrying cameras to chronicle final days
BY PAUL C.
TGI Staff Writer
Recognizing that the end for Amfac Sugar
Kaua’imeans the sunset of an industry, an era and a way of life as well as the
closure of this phase in their employment histories, some Amfac workers have
taken to carrying cameras along with their water bottles and lunchboxes to
their jobs in the fields, factories and offices.
Gary Grottke, president of
Amfac parent company Amfac/JMB Hawai’i, announced in mid-September that
agricultural operations on Kaua’i would be discontinued Nov. 17.
still not clear if that means half, nearly-all or all of the 400 Amfac Sugar
employees (divided about evenly between the former Kekaha Sugar and Lihu’e
Plantation operations) will be unemployed after that date.
What is clear is
that the 100 or so cultivation employees furloughed in July have been told they
should find other jobs.
Some employees have been told informally that they
will be retained to run the Lihu’e Plantation electrical power plant that
produces over 13 percent of the island’s electricity. They could also maintain
roads and irrigation systems on both sides of the island, especially the east,
until Amfac sells its 17,000 acres that extend from Hanama’ulu Bay surrounding
Lihu’e Airport to near Kilohana Crater.
In the meantime, negotiations
l Amfac Sugar and the International Longshore and
Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents 386 bargaining-unit employees.
Amfac and Kaua’i Electric regarding disposition of the power plant once sugar
l And Amfac and the state Department of Land and Natural
Resources and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands regarding Amfac leases on
several thousand acres of land on the west side.
In the middle are the
workers who are facing unemployment, some for the first time in three decades
of work with the plantation.
It is to say “mahalo” and “aloha” to these
workers that Bryan Mamaclay of Wailua Houselots, a planner with the Kaua’i
County Planning Department, has been taking pictures of them working the fields
near his home for the last time.
Mamaclay said his father came by boat from
the Philippines in 1930, following a cousin who had also left the Philippines
seeking a better life in what then was the U.S. Territory of Hawai’i. Also at
that time, the boat trip from the Philippines to Hawai’i took a month, given
After checking out life and employment on O’ahu and Maui,
Bernardo Mamaclay settled in Kekaha, where he worked except during World War II
(when he served hi s new country) for Kekaha Sugar in the harvesting
department, until he retired in 1972.
Bernardo Mamaclay died in 1996, but
not before he had helped his son secure a higher education that Bryan Mamaclay
said enabled him to work in a profession other than sugar, if he
During summers, when he was home from college, the younger
Mamaclay worked the sugar fields, spraying herbicide, insecticides and
fertilizers. He made $4 an hour, which at that time was good money, he
He said the photographs he’s been taking of Amfac’s final harvest
are his way of paying tribute to the men and women who carried on his father’s
profession and tradition – to the end, apparently.
Just two weeks from
Friday, the Hawaiian term pau hana (literally “done work,” usually for the day)
will likely have an entire different meaning for around 400 workers, many of
whom have devoted most of their working lives to growing, harvesting and
milling sugar cane.
Staff writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at
245-3681 (ext. 224) and firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Bryan
(Above) Domingo Casino uses heavy equipment to clear sugar cane
from a field near Wailua Houselots for the last time.
another photo taken taken by Bryan Mamaclay, son of a former sugar worker, who
lives near the field where Casino is working, Casino (top) posed with
co-workers (from left) Joe Maneja, Rudy Bunao, Derek Lopes and Ruben Soriano.
With Amfac Sugar Kauai’s shutdown later this month, they won’t be working
together much longer.
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