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Theme: Workers' Rights

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 about working conditions, exploitation and worker’s rights.

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: I2- I had an accident, I fell on the ice.  I went to the doctors, but in that accident there were many things. I hurt my back because I was carrying a bag of fish that was too heavy for my strength.

I3- I didn’t know my rights in this country and I said “well, I guess that’s how it is and if I have to lift sixty pounds then I have to lift sixty pounds because if that’s how they do it, then that’s how I am going to do it”. As I met other people they told me that's not how it is. I have to fight for my rights whether I am an illegal or not. After a couple days, they called me back saying that they wanted me to work there again and I told them, “no, I don’t want to return to work” and afterwards they told me that they would pay me more if I returned, and I said, “well, if they pay me more I better go.” The last two years that I went back, I said “well, I am not going to do the same jobs that the men do. I am not going to do it because I am a woman and I won’t do it. I want my vacation time even if you pay me or don’t pay me on my vacation time -- I still want it.” I told them I have worked here for three years straight and I have never had any vacation time. “If you don’t want to do those things for me then I will leave”. You have to speak up for yourself confidently and make friends to get rid of the fear because if you don’t stand up for yourself, someone will walk all over you because that’s life in the United States, but one needs to know how to demand their rights in this country.

I1- Everyone is afraid to lose their job. I’m not afraid; I tell them that I will leave right now. I have hands that I can work at any place with. I don’t like that they do this to me.  I’m not in danger because I have permission to work but the rest of the workers who have family here and in your country, and those who just got here with all that debt that you bring with you, they must be desperate and disillusioned about the United States. Many innocent people are exploited and also mistreated.  I say the U.S. is good but we shouldn’t be exploited.  We are the ones working in fish; where I work, I don’t see any American people working here. If they need us (to work) why do they treat us so poorly? I don’t understand.