Yes, this language is inflammatory. But it is dead accurate.
Read this article slowly. Watch the corporate video inside it. Listen to every word from the president of the company…and then decide for yourself, if that is not EXACTLY what’s being done to these young Puerto Ricans. They are being sold into slavery.
THE TIMING IS PERFECT
With a $4.25 minimum wage just around the corner, a company will soon ride into Puerto Rico with a much better deal. It will offer jobs at $9.75 – plus overtime – and a chance to see Alaska !
Both the $9.75 and the overtime are at rock-bottom Alaska minimum wage – not a penny more – but hey…it’s better than $4.25!
The generous company, Westward Seafoods, Inc., will recruit Puerto Rican workers on Sept. 2 and 3 in a hotel in San Juan.
So what kind of jobs are these?
Let’s start with the location. The Westward Seafoods plant is in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
Where is that?
It’s on the ragged edge of Alaska…in the freezing waters of the Bering Sea…on a tiny island named Amaknak.
The entire island is only 3.3 square miles, with roughly 2,500 people on it.
There are no bridges to this frozen island. The only way to get there is by airplane.
Here is an aerial view of Amaknak…the first view our Puerto Rican workers will have of their new home:
Amaknak is a dark place. It snows or rains continuously, roughly 225 days out of the year.
The nearest major city – Anchorage – is 800 miles away.
The nearest hospital is also 800 miles away.
God help you if you get sick, or are seriously injured.
When you work on this island for Westward Seafoods, it’s not just a job. It’s an adventure.
The Puerto Rican workers will kill, skin, gut, slice, behead, and stuff fish into frozen containers.
The job notice makes it very clear, that they will work a minimum of 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, during the whole time they are on the island.
Please read those words again: 12 hours a day. 7 days a week. Minimum.
This is the minimum, because when lots of fish come through…
The employees have to work 18-HOUR SHIFTS…BACK TO BACK…EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Sometimes for more than a WEEK…and as much as THREE WEEKS!
The company website makes the reason for these 18-hour shifts very clear: because Westward Seafoods processes 254,000,000 pounds of fish – more than a quarter BILLION pounds – at their Dutch Harbor facility every year.
If any workers are late or miss a few shifts, they get fired on the spot…and Westward Seafoods will NOT pay their plane ticket off the island. So if a worker gets fired, they must suddenly pay their own plane fare to Anchorage, then to Seattle, and then home.
It’s 800 miles to Anchorage. The entire plane trip to home, can cost over $1,000.
For this reason, employees are terrified of getting fired at Westward Seafoods.
Worker beheading a fish at Westward Seafoods, Inc.
Men and women are working inhuman hours, falling asleep on their feet, risking their lives on the fish-cutting machines.
They can lose a finger…a hand…a whole arm…and the nearest hospital is 800 miles away, in Anchorage, Alaska.
AN ASTOUNDING VIDEO
Most astounding of all, is a video produced by the company itself. It describes the job, the working conditions, and the “career opportunities” at Westward Seafoods.
It shows you the dangerous work environment, and the prison-style barracks where the workers all sleep together.
It has candid interviews with workers: three of whom emphasize the agony of back-to-back 18 hour shifts. One of them – a woman – would like to “get a break” because she’s been working 18 hours a day, every day, for the past week.
She worked 18 hours a day, 7 days a week
Most candid of all is the company spokesman…
Who says that all the workers must be “able to lift 50-pound boxes every 10 seconds, for the entirety of their shift.”
Then the spokesman admits and emphasizes that if workers resist the back-to-back 18-hour shifts, Westward will fire them…send them home without a plane ticket…and give them one hour to get off the company premises.
WHO IS BEHIND THIS IN PUERTO RICO?
In a few weeks, Westward Seafoods will occupy an elegant San Juan hotel, to offer this “employment opportunity” to young workers in Puerto Rico.
The “opportunity” has already received attention in the Puerto Rico press.
Local web sites are promoting the event:
It is important to know if Alberto Baco Bagué (the ex-Secretary of Economic Development), Vance Thomas (Secretary of Labor and Human Resources), or anyone in the Commonwealth government encouraged or “facilitated” the Westward Seafoods recruitment of Puerto Rican workers.
They certainly have not opposed it, or spoken out against it…not even once.
This is disturbing, because it suggests a quiet approval – a wink and a nod – for duping Puerto Rican workers off the island and into indentured servitude.
Many of us still remember how 5,000 sugarcane workers were similarly hijacked to Hawaii in 1900-1901. Now 116 years later, they’re still doing it – in broad daylight, with wide publicity and government acquiescence.
AN UNDERGROUND RAILROAD IN REVERSE
This bitter servitude is comparable to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Emile Zola’s Germinal, and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. But there is an additional component to this.
After 118 years as a US colony and 99 years as US citizens, after fighting and dying in every US war since World War I, Puerto Ricans are still being railroaded and treated as second-class citizens.
We get our land stolen, our currency devalued, a Jones Act for 96 years, our leaders imprisoned and killed, 100,000 carpetas, Gag Laws, predatory loans, and a Financial Control Board.
And now – with the economy on its knees, people desperate for work, and the threat of a $4.25 minimum wage – our young people are offered a one-way ticket to Alaska…
Struggling through a Dutch Harbor blizzard, after another long shift
Where they can work with knives and dangerous machinery 126 hours a week for minimum wage…
On a frozen island 5,600 miles away from Puerto Rico…
With the nearest hospital 800 miles away…
And if they don’t work 126 hours, or whatever hours are demanded from them…
They are fired without a plane ticket, with one hour to leave the premises.
This is the “life” they offer to our young people.
Tell me it’s not slavery.
For a history of the War Against All Puerto Ricans, read the book…
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