150 cannery workers forced into hotel quarantine without pay

LOS ANGELES (AP) — About 150 seasonal workers hired by a salmon cannery in Alaska are being forced to quarantine without pay at a hotel in Los Angeles after three of them tested positive for the coronavirus, a lawsuit claims.

The workers, most of them from Mexico and Southern California, were hired June 2 by North Pacific Seafoods to work at its Red Salmon Cannery in Naknek, Alaska, through August, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in San Francisco Superior Court, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Instead, they have been stuck at the Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel since June 10, attorney Jonathan Davis said.

Leauri Moore, vice president of human resources for North Pacific Seafoods, told the newspaper in an email that she had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.

Moore said authorities in Alaska have issued orders requiring a 14-day controlled quarantine and coronavirus testing in order for anyone to work at a seafood processing plant in the state.

A spokesman for Intercontinental Hotels Group, which owns the Crowne Plaza LAX and is also named in the lawsuit, told the Times in a statement Sunday that the company does not comment on pending litigation, but that it prioritizes the health and safety of guests and employees. .

“We want to stress that the hotel did not prevent any guest from freely leaving the property and provided safe and comfortable accommodations to the guests, including three meals a day,” Jacob Hawkins, the spokesman, wrote in an email.

Based in Seattle, Pacific Seafoods each summer hires hundreds of workers from around the world for temporary jobs at its Naknek cannery, promising them round-trip transportation to and from their point of hire as well as lodging and meals.

The workers were directed to the hotel in Los Angeles to be tested for the coronavirus. Once there, they were instructed to wait together in a crowded hallway and fill out paperwork using shared pens, putting them in close contact with one another for up to six hours, the lawsuit alleges.

Four days later, when results came back positive for three of the workers, all 150 were told that their quarantine had been extended 11 days, until June 25 and that they would not be paid for the time, the lawsuit alleges.

The hotel deactivated their keycards so they couldn't come and go, and they were warned that if they left their rooms for any reason they’d be immediately fired, the complaint states.

Since the start of the initial quarantine June 10, the hotel has provided the workers with no more than two meals a day, according to the lawsuit. In addition to being prohibited from leaving the premises to get additional food or supplies, they have also been barred from ordering room service or accessing any hotel services, the complaint states.

Davis described the situation as “bizarre and outrageous.”

“There are certainly many, many horrible stories in the history of labor and migrant workers and seasonal workers in the United States. But I have not seen this type of case before,” he said.

The lawsuit alleges false imprisonment, nonpayment of wages, failure to pay minimum wages and overtime, negligence and unlawful business practices. Attorneys plan to go to court next week and seek a temporary restraining order to have the workers immediately paid, Davis said.

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