Tuesday, September 7, 2010

MUZZLED (Part 2)

MUZZLED (Part 2): With a tiny, unskilled, untalented and underpaid staff it might be understandable if the local Kaua`i newspaper missed a few stories.

But you’d also think that when the biggest agricultural plantation on the island is linked to charges of slavery it would get at least a little mention.

Readers and viewers of the Honolulu newspaper and TV news outlets respectively have no doubt heard reports about how:

More than a dozen farms in Hawaii were involved in what the FBI is calling the largest human trafficking case ever prosecuted in the U.S., according to a sweeping federal indictment unsealed (last week).

For those unfamiliar with the story according to the Star-Advertiser article linked above

About 400 workers from Thailand circulated through island farms -- some were sent to the mainland -- through Global Horizons from May 2004 through September 2005. The workers were threatened with deportation and economic stress if they did not work, the indictment said.

"This is the largest human trafficking case ever charged in United States history," FBI Special Agent Tom Simon said, referring to the number of victims.

"In the old days, they used to keep slaves in their place with whips and chains," Simon said in an interview. "Today, it is done with economic threats and intimidation."

Global Horizons recruits workers from foreign countries through the U.S. Department of Labor H-2A guest worker program to work on U.S. farms, including properties in four Hawaii counties.

Although the indictment itself (thanks to Larry Geller) - which describes how Thai farmers were duped into putting up the deeds to their land and then underpaid and held against their will- only mentions Maui Pineapple, toward the end of the article it goes on to describe how,

(Last) Tuesday, the Kauai Coffee Co. filed a lawsuit against Global Horizons. The two companies entered into an H-2A agreement for workers from Thailand in 2004.

Since 2006, 17 people have filed worker discrimination complaints against Kauai Coffee Co. through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 15 of whom filed through the Honolulu office.

Kauai Coffee denies the allegations, but has had to defend itself against the EEOC charges, racking up attorneys' fees and associated court costs. Kauai Coffee claims in its lawsuit that Global Horizons should be defending the charges on its behalf.

An attorney representing Kauai Coffee declined comment yesterday, citing the continuing case.

Seventeen EEOC complaints? And Kaua`i Coffee is apparently not only refusing to cooperate with the feds but is trying to stave off indictment but countersuing to get the jump on them.

And it’s not as if the local paper’s Editor Nathan Eagle hasn’t heard about it. According to sources he was not only questioned as to why he didn’t at least run an Associated Press story based on the S-A’s article, but according to one person he bristled at “insinuation” of the question.

We’re not “insinuating” anything. We’re saying it straight out.

After the firing of business Editor Coco Zickos for what she describes as not doing enough to make the business community happy it’s not much of a stretch to think that Eagle would think twice about revealing the allegations of slavery at Kaua`i Coffee- a huge mainstay of the business community, not to mention an advertiser who has had glowing coverage of the taste of their coffee despite the fact that coffee connoisseurs think that, after all these years, it still “sucks” due to it’s high “green” (unripe) bean content related to their mechanized harvesting methods.

We’re working on getting hold of Kaua`i Coffee’s suit.

If nobody knows the troubles we’ve seen, there’s little disputing that you can blame it on the local newspaper which apparently likes it that way just fine, thank you..

1 comment:

Eleanor said...

I look forward to seeing Kauai Coffee's suit.

Good work, Andy.