One of the more challenging things in life is not being the guy who does the cheating, but not saying anything about it and going along with it. – Dale Murphy
To begin, I certainly feel a guilty that I did not post this blog before the commercial fishing season in Alaska began, but I am still waiting for both continued legal assistance and that of the governmental agencies, even though I feel that NUMEROUS agencies that are there to protect and enforcement labor laws on both Federal and State levels have in many ways failed me as an American Citizen! I write this blog NOT out of a malicious nature by any means, but to educate and to hopefully help allow young people and immigrants of their LEGAL rights and means if they are being abused (verbally, physically, and/or refusing to be paid their fair wages), because these captains that make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS AND HOW THEY TREAT OTHERS!
*Scroll down to the list of agencies to contact directly!
Once again I apologize for the explicit content, much of this I know will be a shock to MANY including even family and close friends as I was very quiet about what exactly I endured during this time in Alaska, but I truly hope from the depths of my heart that not only do these people change, BUT, that the industry and the canneries and all involved will take an EXTREMELY close look at the practices that are not being enforced and/or regulated appropriately. Therefore, here is my story....
Through my exhaustion and jet lag, I felt both completely speechless and embarrassed for not speaking up. Especially, at the fact that the so-called captain is a pretty well traveled person and has met and 'befriended' Israelis, African-Americans and other minorities that he called friends, but I soon realized of the two-faced individual that truly lay before me. Even though this person is much larger in size than myself I can only imagine him making these same racial slurs in front of the faces of what he may be call 'our' so-called' Israeli and black friends that we met traveling! Especially having him call them by his own words a "nigger" or yelling at another Jewish captain that he would like to "cut off his big fat Jew nose and shove it up his ass." The only word that comes to mind thinking back on ALL of the hateful words spewed forth from the mouth of the captain and other crew members is, SHAMEFUL!
The communication has been documented below and I will list and hyperlink the Governmental Agencies (as unhelpful as many have been, sadly) those that may endure the same hardships will know how to proceed! As you can read from the recorded communication, which I kept only to FB messages for future legal purposes and refused requests for any verbal or phone conversations, since I knew that when the time may come for legal matters I can honestly state that there was no verbal communication that can or could be suggested in the future. I was also refused my 1099 and full copies of all receipts to verify the correct meager payment I received for my two-months of seven-days a week working! Of course after speaking with two different IRS investigators they of course declared that this is HIGHLY ILLEGAL and upon receiving my 3949-A Form they will be opening a FULL INVESTIGATION!
The continued bouts of racial slurs continued and it seemed the most favorite to be used by this group of Caucasian males was the word, "nigger." They seemed to LOVE throwing this word out as though it were as common as saying, "hey," all while laughing over toasting to their own boastful ways!
Once at sea, I felt as though I wasn't living aboard a working vessel, but it also became my water-driven prison. No escape, even though land was often always within sight. I still often chastise myself for not leaving this toxic environment earlier! When I was convinced to come to try my hand at commercial seining, I didn't realize that our four-man crew would consist of a first-year captain that had hired both a former childhood friend and a high school friend, therefore placing me at the bottom of the group where I was given the most physically demanding job, working the Leads (*video of what this looks like here), as well as my daily responsibility of washing the dishes after each and every meal, often making me the last person to get to bed after working sometimes an 18-20-hour day!
Through this experience it has taught me so much! The value of true leadership, how to treat others with respect, when to stand up for yourself more quickly, and so many others. I can't tell you how EVERY SINGLE DAY, NUMEROUS TIMES I was constantly called, "a piece of shit, a G-d damn retard, a fucking moron, a slanty-eyed gook or chink, a complete fuck up," and so many other awful words that spewed directly from the mouth of the captain and even a few of the other crew members! There were also NUMEROUS times that mistakes were made, yes sometimes by myself I will admit, BUT also even by the captain or other crew members, and when this occurred the first person that was always blamed and cursed at was myself! Even when the mistake was realized that it had NOTHING to do with my mistake, I NEVER once received any type of apology!
Because of these mistakes-which can easily cause severe injury or even death due to the rapid work pace, I also chalk up much of these situations in the lack of overall preparation the captain had provided me with, knowing full well I was a new to this entire industry.
The way I equate it, it was like taking a soldier and putting them in not even a full-day of boot camp and then sending them to the battlefield and expecting them to perform! Yes, I had only ONE DAY of actual practice before the season began where I was, not given instruction of how to properly do everything, but constantly yelled at by how I was constantly screwing up! How do you teach someone by NOT showing them but just yelling and hurling insults at them and then expect results?!
I thank God that after a month at sea, I finally had the courage to tell the captain that I was finished and since we would tender every two-days, I purposely waited until later in the afternoon of the day to notify him of my decision. Unsure how this unstable person may react or respond, I feared for my own personal safety, and even as I write and publish this blog I continue to fear any type of reprisal from the captain, their friends, family members, etc. Even as I have contacted both local law enforcement in Kodiak and Alaska State law enforcement, I told them both the same that I fear for my personal safety and I would NEVER return to Alaska, let alone Kodiak Island.
Thankfully, after telling the captain I wished to leave when we tendered, first he tried to seem all friendly by attempting to convince me to stay longer-I personally feel because he knew that they could not three-man this operation and less about my well-being, but after seeing that I would not be persuaded, he agreed without any violence or surprisingly verbal abuse at first, however this did not last as late that night those same insults of verbal and racial abuse came back! I just thanked God to be knowing that I would be leaving this hellish situation as I counted down the seconds from that moment on, which was about 4pm, and this after beginning our day I believe at around 5am, until I boarded the tender boat of ISA (International Seafoods of Alaska, Inc) around 4am-nearly 12-hours later and being awake for 24-hours at this point, because you never know when the tender boats will radio you so I stayed awake praying for that call over the radio. I am glad to say that even though at this time I really despised my crew mates, I felt it enough to have integrity that while they slept, I cleaned the dishes as normal, along with the cabin as quietly as I could, and tried to leave with my head held up high, even though I felt as though my soul had been beaten down!
I know that if these people read this, they would say, "oh we were just jokin, or it's part of the type of business we are in, or you're not a man, or you couldn't handle it!" Well, once again working under the stressful situations of live broadcast television with millions of people watching live and thousands more in these stadiums, I feel that I've learned to adapt and perform well UNDER CORRECT INSTRUCTION, thus looking back at all of my professional promotions and recommendations by having a strong work ethic!
As thankful as I was to be aboard the ISA vessel, that with each passing second took me further away from that hellish ship of verbal abuse and racial slurs, I feel compelled to mention that during the month at sea where we were tendering every two days, #ISA often delivered to crew members on these tenders and also partook in consuming alcohol as well as delivering cases of alcohol to commercial fishing vessels that in turn allowed several captains to operate while intoxicated, which is a clear violation and illegal according to the U.S. Coast Guard's Law Enforcement and Voyage Termination section, and I did report this to both the U.S. Coast Guard and Alaskan Police Authorities!
Even after speaking numerous governmental and law enforcement agencies it seemed as though there was a level of hesitation to follow-up on my claims with the exception of just a few individuals, one with the IRS and one Alaska State Trooper promised to investigate this situation, but shamefully even after contacting the US Dept of Labor and several
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (#OSHA) Safety Enforcement Officers, it was not until I told them the previous broadcast network connections I have and I had no hestiation with threatening to take this story directly to the national media, especially documenting each and every person I emailed and/or spoke with on the phone, that FINALLY one individual said that he would look into this matter and PLEASED with me not to take this to the national media, however, I have yet to hear back from ANY of these agencies even as their is clear proof of receipts, names given, etc.
GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES TO CONTACT
(even as unhelpful as I have found some of them to be, I've contacted EVERY single agency to report the situation and will also be writing a letter to the Governor, Senators, and other governmental officials)
#2. You must open an investigation with the Alaska State Troopers before contacting the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (again part of the run-around, passing me off)
#3. Commercial Fisheries Commission
#4. United States Coast Guard in Alaska
#5. U.S. Department of Labor (#DOL.gov)
#6. Alaska - Wage and Hour Administration
#7. Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development
#8. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (#OSHA)
#9. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (#EPA)
#10. Alaska Department of Public Safety
#11. Alaska Bar Association
#12. U.S. Fair Labor & Standards Act (#FLSA)
#13. Federal Maritime Commission (#FMC)
#14. Alaska Department of Environmental Protection (#DEC)
#15. AK Dept. of Environmental Conservation - Division of Water
While the Alaska Fish and Game attempts to do fly-overs and even camp out to help control the offenders, there are many ways around this. Whenever someone or myself were told to dump materials into the ocean to avoid a trace of this was to use dish soap to spray into the water to disperse the evidence. Once again I was often yelled at to dump materials into the ocean and then yelled at immediately after, "Fuck, Troy get the dish soap and start spraying!" Other repeated comments after were things like, "G-d damn, are you stupid? You need to make sure to throw soap out there, or spray more out there, FUCK!"
Later, I was told that my aunt when she first saw me, it appeared as though I hadn't slept in a year! I also attribute much of my reclusive nature being back in my home state, that I had to work through a lot of depression and of course the physical pain that still often plagues me even after more than a year! And, it was extremely hard for me to confess or even convey to others what truly happened. I feel as though I would not be truthful when asked about Alaska and say, "well, it was truly hard work!" This was my way of trying to both bury the pain and fake-smile my way through many reunions with family, friends, even former work colleagues in Colorado. The same can be of the photo below, which should not be mistaken as a smile of enjoyment, but more of one that is COMPLETELY DISINGENUOUS by nature, as this is often how I would cope outwardly just to make it through each passing minute of every day! You may also read and see more photos HERE.
As things progress with future investigations, hopefully, I may update this blog and/or include more detailed information of the different agencies I spoke with by providing names, dates, evidence of my communication with them, etc. I continue to thank SO MANY of you that have encouraged me, prayed for me, and shared this story with others. Once again, I hope not to bring up any anger or maliciousness in your own hearts for what I endured, but to let this serve as a warning to others! I am also of course not claiming to be a saint by any means as I stumbled plenty during this time, and the one thing I am truly thankful for from this experience is that it has renewed within me my faith and with that said, in closing, I would like to end with a quote, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." This comes from Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV)