Processor settles cannery worker lawsuit for more than $440,000

Jul 27, 2020

 

North Pacific Seafoods was sued for false imprisonment and failing to pay the workers, among other charges. 

 

Tenders in Naknek. July 2019.
Credit Sage Smiley/KDLG

A Seattle-based seafood processor will pay out more than $440,000 to workers at a Bristol Bay cannery, after settling a lawsuit filed in June.

“We think that it is a fair and just compensation for the workers that were held for 12 days at a hotel without being paid," said Jonathan Davis, a managing partner of the San Francisco-based Arns Law Firm, which filed the lawsuit. The firm took on the case pro bono, so it will not receive any compensation for its work.

The processor, North Pacific Seafoods, was sued for false imprisonment and failing to pay the workers, among other charges. The workers, who were from Mexico and other parts of the United States, were on their way to Naknek to work at the Red Salmon Cannery for the summer salmon season. The suit alleged that the workers arrived at the hotel and were forced to gather in a crowded hallway for several hours before they were tested for COVID-19. They were then told to go to their hotel rooms and wait.

When three of them tested positive for COVID-19, all of those at the hotel were told they had to quarantine in the Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel without pay or lose their jobs. The suit also alleged that their key cards were deactivated so that they could not re-enter their hotel rooms if they left.

The workers were flown to Alaska on June 22. According to Davis, North Pacific Seafoods then sought to settle the cases individually. Davis sees that as an attempt to undermine the case.

“We stepped into that process and were able to increase the amount that was eventually agreed upon per worker,” he said.

As a result of the settlement, most of the workers are eligible to receive up to $2,685 if they sign a release negotiated with North Pacific. The specific amount depends on how long they were in Los Angeles.

KDLG reached out to the company for comment, but it did not respond at the time of this publication.

Contact the author at isabelle@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.