Ryan Kennedy’s article about working on the Alaskan slime lines sure struck home, even though I’m in sunny Arizona. Check out this job ad that appeared in the East Valley Tribune in March.
According to that ad, if you get hired by Icicle Seafoods Inc. they will pay for your trip from Seattle to Alaska—but you have to pay your fare from wherever you live to Seattle. Travel expenses will sure cut into your earnings since you will only get paid $7.15 an hour, but not to worry—you will eventually break even with expenses as you put in 18 hour days doing very tedious and disgusting work. They pay overtime after 40 hours and if that doesn’t entice you, they even provide a bunk bed on their fishing boat with 15 other workers, and meals are served buffet style in the galley for free. In case those 18 hour days of cutting out fish guts isn’t enough exercise for you they provide a work out room, and there is even a TV to watch videos.
Just make sure that you really want to do this kind of work though because this job is a charade for indentured labor: if you quit before your contract is up you get stuck with the travel fees to get back home.
Icicle’s website provided a graphic description of the working environment:
Most of the work that we have is called "sliming" or cleaning fish. This type of work involves removing the viscera (guts) and cutting off heads, fins, gills, or tail. That means there are lots of fish guts and fish blood in the work area. The environment can be wet, cold, and drafty. Due to moving machinery, it is noisy and hearing protection is required. All work gear, including eye and hearing protection, are provided for you.
Things could get worse though. Check out this disclaimer:
Many people have unrealistic expectations about the amount of money they can make working in Alaska. The fishing industry is extremely unpredictable. Even during a good season, the wages you earn in Alaska may be comparable to or less than what you can earn elsewhere. Also, because this is seasonal work, you cannot depend on it for steady income.
Remember: no fish, no work; lots of fish, lots of work!
There might even be worse places to work, that is if you believe Icicle’s website:
Finally, we hope you choose to work with Icicle Seafoods because we believe we have the best program to offer!
So, what sane person would work under such intolerable conditions? What kind of desperation could motivate somebody to take such a pitiful job? The website says they won’t hire illegal immigrants so, who will they hire?
The job ad gives some major clues for those of us who know the code words for “immigrants”. Look at that ad again and see if you can guess where the code is.
OK, I won’t hold you in suspense for too long. The job ad says you can mail your resume to addresses "@azdes.gov." That’s the big giveaway because that’s the Arizona Department of Economic Security. The AZDES processes these ads so that employers can “prove” that no qualified Americans want the job. When the AZDES doesn’t receive resumes it is assumed that there aren’t any qualified Americans, so work visas are issued. In the case of the slimers, employers like Icicle will probably try to snatch some H-2B visas. This document shows how the AZDES rigs the game for employment based green cards
There is one other big clue about who they are hiring right on the Icicle website. They have an entire web page and separate application for students on J-1 visas.
If you want more information about why it’s so hard for American students to get summer jobs and internships, read my newly published article Thanks to feds, search for internships tougher, East Valley Tribune, April 27, 2008 .