UPDATE: Maui Pineapple Co. Dragged Into Human Trafficking Story
One of Hawaii's oldest and most successful agricultural companies is implicated in a new report detailing immoral and potentially illegal labor practices involving a company that provides migrant Thai workers.
In its May-June edition story alleging human trafficking by labor-recruiting company Global Horizons, Mother Jones reports that the now-defunct Maui Pineapple Co. was one of many agricultural companies that used the inexpensive migrant laborers.
Reporter John Bowe wrote that workers told him that one Global Horizons agent on Maui “was in the habit of carrying a knife, a gun, or a baseball bat, and of threatening workers with ‘deportation’ if they didn’t behave or meet their quotas” and that one worker was beaten.
The story follows one Thai immigrant through the exorbitant recruitment fee he is asked to pay, the inhumane living conditions he is forced to endure, and the broken promises and threats that weigh on his family at home.
A Maui Land and Pineapple spokesman told Bowe that Maui Pineapple Co. was not aware of the workers’ allegations at the time, but terminated its contract with Global after learning of them in 2006. Global Horizons denied the allegations.
(Disclosure: Ohana Holdings LLC, a company controlled by Civil Beat CEO and Publisher Pierre Omidyar, in 2007 invested in Maui Pineapple’s former parent company, publicly owned Maui Land and Pineapple Co. The largest shareholder in Maui Land and Pineapple is Steve Case, co-founder of AOL.)
In another Hawaii human trafficking case, next month owners of Kapolei’s Aloun Farms will be sentenced after pleading guilty in January to importing laborers from Thailand to force them to work.