HE CRITICIZES THE WORKER VISA PROGRAM, BUT SERIOUSLY…
Conservative television host Tucker Carlson sees nine Republican senators who need to be removed during their next primary. On the list are Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan.
Alaska’s senators and seven others signed a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, asking him to protect seasonal guest worker visa programs.
Some critics say that guest workers compete with Americans for scarce jobs during a time when unemployment has reached 25 percent nationwide. Carlson is one of those critics, saying white collar jobs are going to foreign workers, and should be reserved for Americans.
But in Alaska, guest workers are employed in fish processing plants in remote locations, sometimes at sea. Finding enough Americans who will work the long and extremely hard hours for the short fishing season in Bristol Bay and Dutch Harbor is nearly impossible for fish processors. They recruit Americans year round, aggressively seeking workers at job fairs in the Lower 48.
But for the short, intense fish processing season, they have to fill in with workers from overseas. Not enough Americans have applied for these jobs in recent decades. These have always been jobs that were filled with foreign workers. It’s how the Alaska commercial catch gets to the world.
Thus, the guest worker visa program, a vital support for the high-quality protein that Alaska supplies the world, and that America needs more than ever during times of national meat shortages.
A search for seafood processing jobs comes up with dozens upon dozens of available jobs, but the work conditions are more like warnings; these jobs are clearly not for every worker. They are tough jobs in rough conditions. Being an able-bodied young person who has no health condition to manage is key. Being able to stand in wet, cold, and dangerous conditions, wearing rain gear, rubber gloves, and face masks, and working quickly around sharp knives and equipment, are other requirements. You’d better not have a back condition or need a shot of insulin. Seafood processing has no time for that — you’re lucky to get a bathroom break.
“This job requires working constantly with hands, some heavy lifting, and standing for long periods of time. Employee must work quickly in order to meet production deadlines and shall have the ability to understand and follow instructions and safety rules. The work environment can be very wet, and cold,” is how one seafood processor describes the general work conditions.
Anyone who has ever worked a slime line will tell you that summary is an understatement. You’ll be taking Advil the rest of your life after a few summers of this work.
“Seafood processors perform a variety of tasks that can include anything from sorting, cutting and cleaning, grading, packing salmon roe to cleanup. Most of the work is repetitive and tedious. Some work can be very strenuous such as stacking 50 lb cases of frozen product, pushing freezer racks or carts of salmon. Working conditions vary with the assignment, but are generally wet, cold and noisy,” the job description continues.
“Working in a processing plant is not an experience for everyone, and everyone should understand their limitations. If you have any doubts at all, it is in your best interest not to apply for this type of work. People with back or wrist problems should consider employment in another industry,” the company warns.
The conditions that these workers endure are grueling and can run more than 16 hours a day. It’s not the white-collar job that Carlson is seeking to protect — these are not the doctors and dentists. They’re not jobs that mothers hope their children will aspire to. They are summer jobs for a very limited group of workers during a very brief period of their lives.
“You must be ready and able to work all hours assigned. Meal periods and breaks must be taken as scheduled. Our Seafood processing locations are very remote areas in Alaska. Housing is dormitory style. There are no health care options nearby. Communication is very limited,” the company says, adding that room and board in dormitories are provided, as is transportation to and from the point of hire.
Tucker Carlson believes there are enough Americans to do these jobs, but decades of experience of seafood processors tells otherwise. Only a small slice of the workforce can endure the conditions of seafood processing operations in Alaska. For those who can, they can’t even make enough money in one summer to guarantee that they can live on that sum the rest of the year in the United States. The money might last them a year in the Philippines.
Carlson also ignores the fact that Americans are now getting an extra $600 a week to sit at home. There’s no way those Americans are going to consider the slime line as an alternative. Sen. Dan Sullivan fought to tie employment insurance more closely to workers’ previous wages instead of awarding all workers the $600, giving some workers more money on unemployment than they would make returning to work. The Sen. Sasse amendment failed 48-48.
The nine senators who wrote to Trump include Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho, Michael Rounds of South Dakota, Todd Young of Indiana, and James Lankford of Oklahoma. Carlson has called for their removal during the next primary.
For Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, that won’t come for two more years, but Sen. Dan Sullivan is up for election this year. He has a challenger from the far left of the political spectrum, and now he has Tucker Carlson biting at him from the right over something about which Carlson has just enough information to be dangerous.
Carlson is usually a proponent of federalism — allowing states to determine what it is they need. Each state is different and has its unique needs. The slime line in Alaska is a place few Americans will go. But it may be a place that Carlson needs to put on his bucket list and visit.