Salmon Cannery Workers Sue Over Unpaid Quarantine Period

Red Salmon Cannery in Naknek, Bristol Bay, Alaska courtesy North Pacific Seafoods
Red Salmon Cannery, Naknek, Alaska (North Pacific Seafoods file image)

Published Jun 22, 2020 7:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

A group of 150 temporary workers have filed suit against salmon cannery operator North Pacific Seafoods over an allegedly unpaid quarantine period at a hotel in Los Angeles. 

The workers, including both American and Mexican nationals, all mustered at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport in preparation for deployment to a cannery in Bristol Bay. They were all given a coronavirus test (in keeping with the State of Alaska's requirements for inbound seafood processing workers) and quarantined for four days while they awaited the results. Three tested positive, according to the lawsuit, and the firm asked the group to complete an additional 11 days of quarantine - allegedly without pay. 

The complaint alleges that the company threatened to fire the workers if they broke quarantine and that the hotel deactivated their room key cards so that they could not return if they departed. (The hotel is also named in the suit.)

“If they left, they’d be at the LAX airport high and dry,” plaintiffs' attorney Jonathan Davis told the LA Times. “They wouldn’t have any pay for the time they were there, and no promise from the company that they’ll be transported back to where they came from.”

COVID-19 control is a major concern for Alaska's isolated fishing communities, which have limited medical resources to care for their own residents and for guest workers in the event of an outbreak. It is also a concern for Alaska's deepwater fisheries: three factory trawlers belonging to American Seafoods recently experienced outbreaks, with 94 positive cases aboard the American Dynasty and 25 more aboard the American Triumph and Northern Jaeger.