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Theme: Life in the Workplace

Interviewee: Anonymous

Role: Seafood processing workers

Date of Interview: 2007 to 2010

Collection: New Bedford Processing Workers 2007-2010

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract:Immigrant women processing workers talk daily life in the workplace.

Many Central American women are employed in New Bedford’s seafood processing industry.  These exhibits were created using excerpts from oral history interviews with 15 of these women.  Each exhibit is thematic and includes the voices of several women.  The interviews were conducted in Spanish. An English language transcript is provided. 

Transcript:I6- My first job, I was so overjoyed ”I'm going to have a job!” and I first earned $700.  I was happy, I would be able to pay off my debt of $6,500.  I didn't think about my debt, just my desire to work.  I had to wear three sweaters, three pants, gloves for the enormous cold, it’s 30 degrees or sometimes 40 degrees inside all night long. We worked 12 hours. The job that I do is after the fish goes through the machine where the fish is split in half, and we who are working- it's only women, we clean the fish. Sometimes they have worms; the type of fish we work on is called bacallao (cod). So we have to take the worms off, clean them off perfectly by hand and with a knife. A very sharp knife that sometime you cut your fingers, you get calluses on your hands. It's very dangerous.

I13 -The scallop comes whole and in little pieces so one has to take out all the pieces, all the pieces. Only the whole one passes. It’s difficult to pick out what's U10, U20, U12, or 10/20 or 20/30, that's really tough because it's by the size of the scallop. Now I learned about all the types of work. I learned to pick out, to weigh, to receive, or to put labels on the bags, to stamp the bags, or to match up the scallop that doesn't go with the others in the rush. There one has to be separating the scallops. Everything now, I know how to do all the jobs there.

I8-I work every day. I work on salary and so I go in every day Monday through Friday, I'm there. And if there are clams Saturdays and Sundays I have to go in as well. So I have to go in every day. We are 50 people there; it is a small company, not very big. They bring clams from New Jersey, New York and from here, Massachusetts. The clams come in the shell, live. There are 14 cutters there; they take the meat out of the shell. Everyone works by contract (piece-rate) of what they do. They are paid $1.90 for each bucket. Each bucket weighs 40 lbs. The men remove the meat from the shells and put it in a bucket, from there the meat goes into a machine to wash the meat and it goes on to a belt where the women clean them. It’s hard work, difficult.  Your hands get swollen, it hurts.

I15- Well, my husband worked there first and the wife of his cousin worked there, and because of her, he got the job. And later, when I came, my husband spoke to his boss, and this boss was very good to us, and he told him “bring her, bring her”. I went to clean cod at the table, to clean filets, and at first we couldn’t do it but we learned little by little. Later they saw that I worked feverishly, we would work faster and the boss came and saw the effort we put into it and he tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You are going to try packing.”  And I said (to myself), “Oh Lord, what if I can’t do it, or maybe I am not doing things well and he is sending me to work on the other side” I thought quickly. Later I spoke to my husband and he said “No, it’s that for packer, they need people to work quickly”. So I was newly sent to work in packing and when I was packing the boss said, “Well, I am going to give you a 25 cent raise because you work so fast, and you are doing a good job.”