Maui Considers Incentive Program to Attract Laid-Off Twitter Employees


ALOHA!: An artist's rendering of how signs could be placed at OGG to welcome former Twitter employees. (Image by Jeff King of Kahului)

Maui County officials are developing a new incentive program aimed at all the vacant service job positions on-island that have remained difficult to keep filled since the pandemic.

The concept is a pilot program to kick off with monetary enticements to lure some of the thousands of former Twitter employees recently let go by the social media company upon its purchase by billionaire Elon Musk.

“It dawned on us that a solution to filling all these vacant positions on-island may be just sitting there not all that far away, in the San Francisco Bay Area,” said Harold Papai of the Maui County Office of Economic Development. “It seems like a win-win-win: we get workers to fill vacancies and help local businesses succeed.

“Former Twitter employees get opportunities to make some bucks during their transition into the working world. And, while they are making money they can learn how to clock in to a workplace every day, and to stay off their mobile phones. They can learn some real-life skills.”

National workforce development officials applaud the concept, and hope other states and territories along the Pacific Rim will follow suit.

“It’s not just Twitter. All the big tech companies along the West Coast are preparing for the recession that they were told was not happening, by letting go of thousands upon thousands of employees, some of whom actually worked in the office,” said Jed Mackowiak, director of regional employment growth policy for the federal Employment and Training Agency, under the U.S. Departments of Labor.

“We’re still trying to figure out what they were doing the past 2 years when a lot of Americans lost jobs, lost homes, kids couldn’t go to school, and worse, due to the pandemic lockdowns we forced,” Mackowiak said. “We’re pretty shocked to learn how many of these Bay Area tech workers didn’t do much of anything, actually.”

Hawaii public policy watchdogs expressed concern about adding so many workers from the same political party, including some who might have been trigger-happy with censorship.

“We caution the county that almost all of these employees were involved in a gigantic secret censorship scheme,” said Joe Kelly of the Roots Institute of Hawaii, a nonprofit think-tank based in Honolulu.

County officials, however, noted that the new West Coast arrivals should feel right at home.

“We’re pretty Left here to begin with,” said Mayor Michael Victorino, whose term expires at year's end. “I mean, look at a map. C’mon, man! No one out-Lefts us!”

The main concept of the first phase of the pilot program is to work with resorts to help get them back to full staffing so even more visitors can be crammed onto the island.

That would also further overcrowd Kahului Airport, which should result in even more jobs, Victorino said.

Additionally, there is a huge need for handymen that actually show up and finish projects on Maui. “We’re not certain about that last part, but we’re pretty sure these Twits will at least show up, and that’s a start,” Mackowiak said.

That may depend on whether any of the transplanted West Coasters know how to use a hammer, county officials say.

The incentive program is operating under the working name “Why Not?” until the pilot phase ends and county officials can properly name it based on results.

“As in, Why not? Nothing else worked,” said Mackowiak of the federal Employment and Training Agency. “Have you scrolled through the jobs section on Craigslist lately? It’s job after job after job at Maui restaurants and resorts by businesses who really, really need the hands.”

The pilot program proposes a $1,000 sign-up grant to Twitter employees who agree to come take positions targeted by the employment agency per input from the businesses, plus 1-way air fare.

Meanwhile, over on Oahu, officials are thinking of doing the same thing specifically for laid-off employees of Nuro, an autonomous vehicle delivery startup based in the Bay Area.

The concept is to help fill needed positions for Lyft and Uber drivers, as well as relief for thousands of Turo car-rental operators on island now.

Over on Lanai, employment planners are eyeing laid-off Redfin employees to help out at the Cat Sanctuary.

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