Grand Princess Crew Member Dies, Union Alleges Workers Mistreated

The Grand Princess cruise ship pulled into San Francisco Bay on March 9, 2020 carrying at least 21 people who are infected with COVID-19.
Photo credit Matt Bigler/KCBS Radio
By KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

There are still hundreds of workers quarantined on the Grand Princess cruise ship after the passengers disembarked at the Port of Oakland last month.

Their quarantine ends Saturday afternoon but advocates say it is still not clear what will happen to them once it is over, and workers are worried for their health.

“The workers who have remained on the ship are screened regularly,” says Samantha Levens with the International Transport Workers Federation. “But screening is not a substitute for testing and considering the environment these workers are in with regards to being in close quarters, and that as workers they represent a vulnerable population, they should be tested and treated humanely.”

Levens along with other union representatives and community advocates held a virtual news conference Friday calling on Princess Cruises to test all workers who remain on board.

“We need more transparency about what’s happening,” said Terry Valen, with the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns. “What’s the plan to take care of these workers on the ship as they get off?”

The concerns were raised as news came that a crew member died of COVID-19 at a San Francisco hospital. The worker was Filipino and is the third person from the ship to die of the virus and first crew member. Hundreds of workers have left the ship and returned home but many remain on board.

Levens says those workers feel they are being kept in the dark, and some have been asked to sanitize the ship without proper equipment or training. 

“The treatment of these workers thus far has been appalling,” said Levens. “From the lack of transparency around even basic information… to frankly the inhumane treatment of these workers who have not just been quarantined on a contaminated ship, but asked by their employer to go beyond their expertise to clean the ship and who have had their communications with the outside world severely reduced.”

The cruise line has released a statement expressing condolences over the passing of the crew member but have not responded to requests for comment regarding the union's complaints.