BY WAYNE KATAYAMA – I am writing in response to your Hawaii Reporter story “Farms Under EEOC Scrutiny in Hawaii and Washington Receive Federal Aid,” which appeared on your website last Friday, concerning Kauai Coffee.
While we do not anticipate this information warrants a correction or clarification, we do believe that this information should become a part of your knowledge base and internal resources, and perhaps your file on this subject.
Your story’s use of the words ‘federal subsidies’ implies some type of ongoing crop pricing support essential to the operations of our business, including salaries and wages, which is not accurate.
In fact, the federal grants which were provided to Kauai Coffee were from the Farm Service Agency’s Emergency Conservation Program for rehabilitation of farm land damaged by flooding.
The disaster relief (which is not uncommon), includes repairs to essential irrigation infrastructure, most of which had been was damaged as a result of 2006’s unprecedented 40-days-of-rain.
This irrigation infrastructure provides irrigation water to one-third of our farm land also generates clean, renewable energy via hydropower for the island.
Regarding the context of the story – that our farm was sued by the EEOC – I have attached a copy of the A&B’s response as it clarifies their position on that matter.
STATEMENT FROM CHRISTOPHER J. BENJAMIN, HEAD OF AGRIBUSINESS, ALEXANDER & BALDWIN, INC., REGARDING EEOC CIVIL COMPLAINT INCLUDING KAUAI COFFEE COMPANY, INC. APRIL 20, 2011
We are disappointed that the EEOC continues to include our company in their claims against Global Horizons, Inc., despite years of our cooperation with their investigation against Global and without any evidence of wrongdoing by Kauai Coffee Company, Inc. We find the EEOC’s release announcing this lawsuit sensationalized and not based on facts relating to Kauai Coffee’s actions.
We have never been informed by any of the workers from Thailand, any governmental authority, or anyone else, that the Thai workers experienced any mistreatment while at Kauai Coffee. We both cooperated with the Federal government’s investigation, and conducted our own investigation. Our investigation confirmed a strongly positive working relationship between the Thai workers and Kauai Coffee employees. We made multiple requests of the EEOC to identify specific acts of wrongdoing and have not received any information.
Therefore, we will vigorously defend Kauai Coffee Company in this lawsuit which is built on long-unsubstantiated claims relating to Thai workers provided by Global Horizons during the 2004 and 2005 coffee harvest season.
• Under our contract with Global Horizons, we paid the company for each worker a wage rate which was established by the U.S. Department of Labor, plus an administrative fee for Global. Global was responsible for paying the workers.
• The housing we provided to the Thai workers was inspected by OSHA and certified as meeting the government-required living conditions/standards and regulations. The housing was within walking distance to our headquarters and factory.
• The Thai workers had no restrictions outside of work hours. They were free to come and go and to interact with our Kauai Coffee employees. They had access to all of Kauai Coffee lands, including reservoirs and the ocean, which they used for recreational purposes. Additionally, transportation was available to other locations on the island.
• Two of the Thai workers who were formerly employed by Global Horizons have been directly hired by Kauai Coffee, as they have since obtained work clearances.
Wayne Katayama is president of Kauai Coffee Company LLC