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Friday, September 03, 2010
Green hypocrites: Case & Omidyar’s Maui Land & Pine tied to human trafficking case
By Selected News Articles @ 12:03 AM :: 14737 Views :: Kauai County, Maui County, Environment, Ethics, Agriculture, Labor

UPDATE September 2: We posted this excerpt from Mother Jones May 8.  Today Federal Prosecutors handed down indictments in what they call the "largest human trafficking case in US history."  According to the indictment, Case and Omidyar's Maui Land and Pine, Aloun Farms, and several other farming operations in Hawaii and on the mainland contracted with the alleged slavers of "Global Horizons" to provide labor.  Several prominent Hawaii progressives--including former Democrat governors Waihee and Cayetano--testified in defense of Aloun Farms asking for leniency.  So: Waihee, Cayetano, Case, Omidyar, slavery.  But Aloun slavery is OK because it is an organic farm and organic is the sacred food of the eco-religion.  KHON, one of the very few Hawaii media outlets not owned by Case or Omidyar reports: "The FBI is still investigating whether they knew about the forced labor conditions."  

May 8, 2010: Here’s an excerpt of a Mother Jones May-June, 2010 edition article about Thai ‘guest workers’ enslaved in debt peonage by labor contractor “Global Horizons”.  Added commentary is [in brackets].

Omidyar’s Civil Beat is already trying to spin this.  But any day now, the Star-Bulletin/Advertiser--partly owned by Steve Case’s father Dan H. Case--will look into this and write a searing expose.  Not.

We at Hawai'i Free Press would like to take this moment to point out that Pierre Omidyar funded Kanu Hawaii which pushed for the barrel tax to raise the price of imported oil to $100/barrel and launched the group of HSTA/Neil Abercrombie campaign shills known as Hawaii Education Matters and SoS Hawaii.  And Dan H. Case’s newspapers propelled them to prominence.

And Dan H. Case’s nephew Ed Case is running for Congress. 

And all of this is tied to the wind farms proposed for Lanai, Maui, and Molokai… and much, much, more.

Bound for America

THREE MONTHS after Intajak arrived in America, in October 2004, Global Horizons sent him to Hawaii to work for the Maui Pineapple Co. Here, the pay was better than in Yakima—$9.50 an hour—but the conditions were worse. One Global Horizons agent, Intajak and other workers told me, 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. Just four days in, Intajak says, he watched the man beat a coworker

[Yes, but it was a Civil Beat.]

The Maui Pineapple Co.'s land is nestled among gorgeous foothills, shrouded in mist and covered with volcanic soil the color of dark coffee. The now-defunct company was part of Maui Land & Pineapple Co., whose majority owner is Steve Case, cofounder of AOL; another primary shareholder is eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, a generous benefactor of anti-slavery organizations. 

[If only Aloun Farms had known about this trick.] 

I visited Maui in January 2008, meeting with Intajak and taking a tour of the plantation. He took me to a one-room barracks where says he stayed with 17 other workers. He pointed to a muddy spot near the parking lot, saying this was where he and others slept on the ground to make sure they were chosen to get work when the van came at 4:30 a.m. Here, he indicated, pointing to a chain-link fence, was where they snuck out to run to a store for Ramen noodles because their food rations were too small, or too disgusting. Finally, he pointed to the bush whose leaves they'd boil when they couldn't afford Ramen noodles. "Khom!" he said. "Very bitter." (A Maui Land & Pineapple spokesman says 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.) 

[That “termination” is PR spin so nice that Omidyar’s ‘Civil Beat’ featured it in it's May 6 spin-article, but in 2006 the US Dep’t of Labor banned Global Horizons.  It is far more likely that it was the US DoL ban which “terminated” ML&P’s Global Horizons contract.]

Intajak was asking a lot of questions and his supervisor began threatening to send him home. On September 12, 2005, Intajak took stock of his predicament. After 14 months of work, his visa had two days remaining. He had no idea whether Global planned to renew it, and he still owed $6,000 on his recruiting fee. Being sent home would mean losing his home and his land, which had belonged to his family for generations. It would mean homelessness for his wife, daughters, grandmother, and aunt. He could see only one way out.

Teaming up with a friend who'd also decided to run, Intajak threw his backpack out a window, then snuck out of the pineapple compound. Within moments, another friend called his cell phone to tell him the guards were coming after him.

Intajak ran into the cane fields for cover, snaking his way in shorts and flip-flops through the twisting, two-inch-thick, 12-foot-high stalks. "I was sweating like crazy, and it was muddy and slippery," he says. "I really had no idea what was going to happen, or if I'd make it, or what would happen if I got caught." Listening for cars, trying to stay close to the road, Intajak headed down the mountain, toward the ocean. After an hour in the cane, he found his friend, and together, they walked into Paia, a surfer town.

Disoriented in a world of dreadlocked, smoothie-sipping falangs, or white people, among stores called OmZone and Drums & Tings, Intajak and his friend made their way to a grocery where, by chance, their conversation was overheard by a Thai employee. She and her husband agreed to help the runaways. They put them up overnight and, for $500 each, bought them one-way tickets to Los Angeles. Only after they boarded the plane to safety did Intajak and his friend notice that the tickets had cost $175 apiece.

Several weeks after arriving in Los Angeles, Intajak made his way to the offices of the Thai Community Development Center, a nonprofit serving the area's burgeoning Thai population. According to Chanchanit Martorell, the center's director, he was the first of many Thai workers who'd escaped Global Horizons' employ. The center was getting reports from worker advocates and legal-aid attorneys in Washington state, Utah, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Hawaii….

Since his escape more than four years ago, Intajak has lived underground in Los Angeles, working without papers six and a half days a week as a cook in a Thai restaurant. (He has also filed for a trafficking visa.) He makes $100 a day. Although he's free from Global's direct control, he says his family is still being threatened by Sinchai, the recruiter back in Lampang province. Intajak says Sinchai has told him that one of the pieces of paper he signed promised a "guarantee fee" of nearly $5,000 if he ever "ran away" from Global's employ—and that's on top of the thousands he's already repaid. Sinchai has filed court proceedings and taken title to a portion of his property, and she is pushing to assume the rest of it. Intajak's wife and children live under the threat of losing everything. It's been more than five years since Intajak has seen them….

[Maybe Pierre and Steve could send them a money order….] 

(Global Horizons owner Mordechai "Motty") Orian stressed that in the messy, imprecise, red-tape-filled business of labor contracting, he had tried everything to keep his operation as clean as possible. Still, by 2004, he found himself in hot water with agencies in several states over housing and tax violations. In 2006, after finding that Global "knowingly gave false information" to applicants, the Department of Labor banned Orian from bringing in more foreign workers

[Could THAT be the reason Maui Land and Pineapple dumped Global Horizons in 2006?] 

Read the rest of the Mother Jones story >>> here

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