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Kailua-Kona coffee growers slapped with labor violations

    Kona coffee growers contend Safeway hasn't made good on pledges to change its labeling of Kona blend coffee and to sell 100 percent Kona coffee in some stores.

A U.S. Labor Department investigation has resulted in some of Kailua-Kona’s most well-known coffee growers and producers paying more than $100,000 in back wages and penalties for violations affecting 150 workers in the state’s coffee industry. 

“We have found widespread labor violations among Hawaii’s investigated coffee farms and farm labor contractors. While we are pleased to have recovered back wages for a substantial number of workers, we will continue our effort to promote awareness and improve compliance in this industry,” said Terence Trotter, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Honolulu District Office. 

 Violators included the following businesses: Gold Coffee Co., Greenwell Farms, Koa Coffee Plantation, Bird Feather Hawaii, Mountain Thunder Coffee Inc., Kona Blue Sky Coffee and farm labor contractor Tomasita Farm Service, which provided farm workers to Koa Coffee Plantation and Bird Feather Hawaii.

Following the investigation, the  Kona Coffee Council has agreed to promote labor law compliance among its membership and has established a code of conduct for lawful employment practices and working conditions. Members have agreed that they will not knowingly ship or receive goods that were produced in violation of minimum wage, overtime and child labor requirements. 

“We applaud the Kona Coffee Council for its commitment to protecting farm workers and for promoting responsible employment practices among its members. The council’s code of conduct serves as a model for other agricultural industries in Hawaii and nationwide,” Trotter said. 

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