According to an AP story, two fishermen who claim that they had been held against their will aboard Honolulu-based fishing vessels are now living in San Francisco using emergency visas designed for those who have been victims of human trafficking. The fishermen have also filed a lawsuit against their former employer saying that they were forced to work 20 hour shifts without the proper equipment, pee in buckets and sleep where bed bugs could cause running sores on their bodies. The two men say that they signed the contract in Honolulu believing that they would be well treated and be able to leave the boat whenever they chose. The two claim that they were held aboard the board against their will in a move that their lawyer compares to slavery.
Earlier this year, the AP investigated many such claims involving 140 boats where workers claim to make less than 70 cents an hour. As a reaction to the criticism, the Hawaii Longline Association has created a new contract. Owners wanting to sell their fish at seafood auctions beginning on October 1. By signing the contract, workers acknowledge that they understand that they will be living on boats for up to one year while their passports are held by the ship’s owners.
Currently, owners do not have to provide basic rights to their workers. Many human rights advocates are calling on Congress to rectify the situation so that these workers are treated like all workers in the United States.
Today, the two fishermen are doing well. They do, however, avoid Fisherman’s Wharf. Both men are employed by a liquor store. After completing their first job, one man goes on to drive a car for hire while the other man takes inventory at a large department store.
The men say that they like their new life. They admit to being scared of their previous boss saying that they want to avoid him. They say that the reason for their lawsuit is to bring people’s attention to this problem believing that most people are not even aware that the problem is going on today in America.