Worker sabotage in a Honolulu pineapple factory

Everyday sabotage and work-reduction in a Hawaii pineapple plant, by Lance, a pineapple packer.

Submitted by libcom on December 30, 2005

In Honolulu, most people start working at Dole Pineapple right out of high school. They usually end up staying there for the rest of their lives like my grandparents did. If you don't have a good education, it's hard to find any other job in Hawaii. I'd have to say that for most people, it was just a shitty job. The work was hard and the factory was noisy and hot. No one liked it. The managers were incredibly abusive; in order to avoid promoting people, they switched us around a lot so we never got skilled at any one job.

I worked at the janacka machine, which cuts the hides and skin off the pineapple. I also worked where they seal the tops of the cans, and then I worked inspection, where they weigh random samplings of cans to make sure they have the right amount of juice and everything.

The janacka machine was probably the best. We usually worked a straight ten-hour shift, so a lot of people would just burn out. The biggest problem was people falling asleep and getting their hands caught in the machine. To combat that, people would try to get more breaks - we were only allowed two breaks a shift. To do this, they would send a pineapple down the wrong direction, or send a glove down, and it would break the whole machine. If the janacka machine shuts down, you can't cut the pineapple, and if you can't cut the pineapple, the line can't go on. The whole production line shuts down. It takes at least three hours to fix, so you're getting paid for three hours at least for just sitting around.

There was only one manager for the people who sealed cans, and it's such a huge place that they couldn't check on us more than once an hour. We could easily switch the wrong button and the juice would go into the wrong container, or we could change the levels so that everything overflowed. They'd have to shut down the machine to figure out what went wrong.

There were about five of us working at the inspection place in different shifts. We would collect the pineapple for samples, go into the back room, hang out, listen to the radio for a couple of hours, and then throw all the samples away. It was a pretty common practice.

We never got caught and I don't know anyone who's ever been fired from Dole. First off, it's incredibly cheap labour and, overall, they're making a hell of a lot of money from our ten hour shifts. It was so easy to make a mistake that they'd never know when we did it on purpose. Everyone who worked there knew that people did it. They welcomed the break - they'd be stupid not to, and be ostracised by everyone else.

This is an edited extract from Sabotage in the American Workplace by Martin Sprouse taken from

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