To the Editor:
On Dec. 16 at 2:30 p.m., when the cruise ship committee meets, will the following be considered? Cruise ships violate U.S. labor laws. Hundreds of workers are invisible below the decks. Technically they are employed as indentured servants, but it really means they are enslaved. The cruise ships are sweat ships, relying on workers from third world countries who are invisible, have no voice, only signed contracts successfully keeping them trapped thousands of miles from their homes. The ships fly flags of convenience. They are registered in other nations like Carnival Cruise Line’s fleet is registered in Panama. Workers are paid $1.65 an hour for work weeks 70 hours long, with no days off for 10 months at a time. This is what floats in our harbor. Most people are dangerously unaware of what the labor practices and conditions are like below decks to keep the party atmosphere fueled above decks. Please, to document facts, I urge you to read Lizzie Presser’s article (story.californiasunday.com/below-deck).
I work seasonally as a janitor on Mount Desert Island. Three years ago, I witnessed a disturbing sight on Sundays in between shifts as I picked up the Sunday paper. I saw persons of color who had run from the town pier to Hannaford to wire money home. I recognize other janitors and much can be communicated without language. I saw they were dressed head to toe in winter parkas, caps, mittens and boots. These workers had no idea what the weather was like in mid-July in Maine. Utterly exhausted, perspiring heavily in their winter clothing, they looked frightened, racing, because they only had a short break. They must have seen images of winter in Maine but had no clue what the weather was actually like. This summer, a local woman who once worked as a recreation director on a cruise ship, verified what I saw. She shared how she gave workers below decks all her tips because “they wire their entire paychecks home.”
Bar Harbor clings to flawed logic, dangerously unaware and erroneously views the ships floating in our harbor in terms of a healthy business partnership.
This is not the case. The ships are predators, not partners.
Isn’t this the time to address cruise ship predation and face uncomfortable tough facts? At my work, cleaning up after thousands of visitors every summer, many enjoy talking to “the help.” For 12 years I have heard, “Why does Bar Harbor have cruise ships?” “We are never coming back here!” “There are other towns we’ll go to. What a shame. What has happened to Bar Harbor? This summer season people came to visit because cruise ships did not.
Perhaps it is time to consider a citizen’s initiative like Key West managed to do. Let residents vote to decide how Bar Harbor can intelligently determine our future. It’s time to soak up all the realities involved with cruise ships including predation, slavery and the ugly realities below their decks.