On September 19th, Trinette Furtado requested that the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations look into what she described as “the widespread Violations of the Hawai’i labor laws by the longline fishing industry.” Furtado alleges that, “Unlike reputable native Hawaiian and other local fishing outfits, these labor violations oppress workers, deceive consumers and undercut competition within the market.”
The longline fishing industry is composed of fishing vessels which engage in fishing and fishing related activities including transportation of products and housing of foreign fish workers within the territorial waters of the State of Hawai’i. They use state resources managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resource and Harbors Division of the Department of Transportation’s controlled and operated state harbors. They unload their products in Honolulu where they are sold and enter into the Hawai’i market and beyond.
As has been reported previously and recently in the press, many longline fishing boat owners use labor recruiters to recruit fish workers from Third World countries. These workers come from subsistence or other impoverished backgrounds and have no familiarity with Hawai’i wage and labor laws.
They are generally ineligible to admission into the United States. Instead, using an obscure practice of the Department of Homeland Security, employers obtain standard deportation forms from Homeland Security which require that these workers be “detained-on-board” by the boat owner and/or captain.
According to Furtado, “Individuals employed in these enterprises generally are told they will be paid $300/month for a twenty-four month term. However, often, $100/month is deducted to give the labor recruiter and the remainder is kept by the boat owner until the end of the term, many deducting meal and other expenses from the amounts.”
“We have come across no evidence that these workers are paid weekly or bi-weekly or that they are given a regular accounting of their wages and deductions,” continued Furtado.
Furtado attached the names of numerous individuals being “detained on board” and examples of worker contracts backing up her allegations.
This practice of allowing fishing workers working in Hawai’i waters and using Hawai’i docks to be “detained on board” violates both Hawaiian values and the Hawai’i constitution, according to Furtado.