Dozens of former baggers gathered at the Pearl Harbor Commissary yesterday, claiming they had been unfairly dismissed from their jobs.
Baggers are not employees, but are contracted to bag and load groceries into customers’ cars for tips. Some have been doing it for decades, making a living off the gratuity.
On Saturday, 43 out of about 100 baggers were let go because they did not have the proper identification, said Agnes Tauyan, Navy spokeswoman.
She said the commissary is enforcing Department of Defense policy, which requires carrying a military ID to work at the commissary, and gave the volunteers weeks of notice to comply.
She said officials reviewed the program after receiving several complaints that some baggers did not have military identification cards. The commissary is not on base.
The commissary brought in some 30 people to replace the noncomplying workers, Tauyan said.
In an attempt to be flexible, officials will allow former baggers to reapply and resume working if they meet program requirements, she said.
Paulo Gutierrez, who has been a bagger for about seven years, said he handed over a petition protesting the cut as unfair, signed by more than 40 people, including working baggers and store employees.
Gutierrez protested that baggers were not given enough notice. He said he and others were notified only last week that the policy would be enforced.
He said the money he makes at the commissary pays his bills and that he will try to get a military ID to return to work.
"It’s always been a reliable source of income," he said. "It’s been one of those rewarding jobs."
He said some of those who lost their positions have worked as baggers for more than two decades.
"Some of these people, their wills are broken," he said. "This is their life."
A bagger helped load groceries yesterday into the van of Kalihi Valley resident Paul Bringas.
"That’s unfair," he said of the dismissal. "Who’s the one complaining? I don’t think it’s the regular customer complaining."
Nyda Ball, a bagger at the commissary for about five years, said some of the dismissed baggers found out that night that Saturday was their last day.
"It’s sad," she said. "I just feel their pain. Hopefully, they can come back and work."