The members of Scientology’s most elite organization, the Sea Organization, work 90+ hour weeks. For decades, their pay was $50 per week and last year was increased to $100 per week. They do get room & board for free.
I am just going to state the facts here and not going to voice any other opinion than this: If you encounter anyone in your vicinity that wants to join an organization like this, have them read this story.
95-Hour Week On Scientology’s Cruise Ship
I was “promoted” to the Freewinds, Scientology’s Cruise Ship, in January 2015. My pay suddenly changed from the already measly $100/week to $37.50, minus taxes and I started deck work as part of the Able Bodied Seaman (AB) program. It didn’t feel like a promotion, but more like a demotion.
After I completed the necessary deck assignments, I was about to start my engine room assignments. However the plan has suddenly changed. I was suddenly told that I would go and work in the restaurants of the ship.
My post was called “Pantry Chef”, and I soon found out this had nothing to do with being a chef, I was basically a Busboy with additional duties of getting ready drinks, cups, get food items for the waiters from the galley.
My schedule looked like this:
07:30 Wake-up, shower hygiene, fast breakfast
08:00 Brew coffee, set up for breakfast in two dining rooms.
8:30-9:45 Breakfast being served
9:45-11:00 Clean up after breakfast and re-setup for lunch
11:30-12:00 Eat lunch
12:00-12:30 Get drinks ready for lunch
12:30-1:30 Serve lunch
13:45 Mandatory meeting, lasted 10-25 minutes, then clean-up an re-setup for dinner
17:30-18:00 Eat dinner
18:00-18:30 Make drinks for dinner
18:30-19:30 Serve dinner
19:30-21:00 Clean up and set up for next morning’s breakfast
21:00-23:30 Various activities, like extra cleaning, sometimes briefings, helping the waiters to set up, letter writing, ship drills.
This was the basic schedule.
On Saturdays, instead of study 15:00-17:00, it was okay, per my senior, to do a quickie job and 14:30-17:00 I could go ashore without my wife, as she had a totally different schedule. But time to time even this going ashore was canceled when we had a bad week of production, and we couldn’t make the time up on a good week, because people had to be served.
Our “days off” were Saturday afternoon when we would go ashore anyways and after 9 pm in the evening.
The nights when we sailed, I had the additional duty of securing my mugs, etc. for sea, and of course the next morning I had to come in earlier undo these setups.
The first problem started when after two days of learning, Betty Wang, whom I was replacing and who was teaching me, unknown to me, received an order to leave me all alone and go to her new post that had to do with making money (more important than mine).
I had no one to ask questions from. My senior was very busy and short tempered, and was not pleased with me as I was too slow compared to the people that had been working there for years.
Additionally, a few days later my legs started to hurt like hell, as there were two flights of stairs between the restaurant and the galley (and the other restaurant that I also had to service).
You can imagine that by the end of the night I was wasted. Little did I know! At this time there were only about 120 passengers.
In a few weeks there was a big convention when the ship was completely packed, around 200 passengers. They didn’t fit into the two restaurants. That meant we needed to have two seatings for each meal. That means I started at 7:15 am, usually finished by midnight or later, and we skipped study. It was like hell.
I was expected to run all day, non-stop, because if an executive had seen us slow down, that would have been big trouble.
Since we were already very short on people (see photo), the fact that I wasn’t fast enough created a lot of arguments and yelling.
Additionally the waiters had extra duties, like covering the snack bar, handling garbage, bringing passenger luggage on board, occasional special dinners, weddings, and they needed to get up at 4 am if the passengers were leaving on an early flight, as the ship was the “friendliest place on earth” and requiring them to get food on the airplane or getting them sandwiches, which I think is a normal solution, would have been “really bad service”.
Many times I had to get up early to make special vegetable drinks for passengers.
Imagine that despite all this, we had to keep a rest log, and it was our responsibility that we got the amount of rest required by the marine regulations. If we didn’t, like during the convention, this became a problem later on (for us, and not for those who refused to give more personnel) and we were severely reprimanded for violating the regulations.
I got yelled at regularly and it was of course my fault.
At one point I felt a burning feeling in my stomach area. It hurt really bad. I went to the doctor and she informed me that I had hernia. I wasn’t supposed to lift more than 20 pounds. But honestly, having to run around like that was already painful and I had to force myself to carry 2-3 racks of cups at a time, in order to speed up. It was a torture. I was in constant pain and I had to do it anyways.
Can You Top This?
You may think it can’t get any worse – it did.
Some executive came up with the idea that I needed to complete the AB program that I started at the beginning. I did this in my study time and somehow I was supposed to complete cleaning up earlier, without additional help.
This final part of the program consisted of going down to the engine room and cleaning the black tar-like deposit from inside the engine. It was hot, and I also had to wear a protective suit, and honestly, one period like this would have required about 4 hours including the cleanup. If the black stuff got onto my skin, I was only able to clean it off with a special cream-like material, water had no effect at all. I was literally in the hot hell.
Then the time came that was the anniversary of the maiden voyage of the ship, and we had the additional duty of going to the engine room and helping there with the painting.
Eventually I got out, got replaced by someone. But you know what it felt like? There is a fairy tale I read when I was a kid. It went like this:
There was a sea between the Earth and Hell. There was a guy, the boatman that carried people there and back. His only chance to escape was to hand over the paddles to a passenger and jump out of the boat first. Of course it was very rare that someone had to go that way and he was there for hundreds of years.
One day the hero of the tale had to go to Hell to retrieve something. The boatman rowed him all the way to Hell and waited for him on the other side. When the hero came back from Hell, got into the boat, the boatman rowed back to Earth much faster than ever. And when they got close to land, he suddenly tried to hand the oars to the hero and jump out of the boat.
This is how I felt like when I was leaving that post.
The person who replaced me told me that she had actually worked on a real cruise ship and she had 5-6 hours every day when she could just go out the shore, enjoy the sun and the beaches.
Working on a ship doesn’t need to be hell, it is just made to be that way.
Legal Points: Is It Correct To Force People To Work 95 Hour Weeks For $50?
“In 2009, Marc and Claire Headley sued the Church under the federal Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. In response, Church lawyers argued that the First Amendment prohibited the courts from considering “a forced labor claim premised upon … social and psychological factors”, because they concern ‘the beliefs, the religious upbringing, the religious training, the religious practices, the religious lifestyle restraints of a religious order.’
“The Church acknowledged that the rules under which the Headleys lived included a ban on having children, censored mail, monitored phone calls, needing permission to have Internet access and being disciplined through manual labor. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals noted in a ruling given in July 2012 that Marc Headley had been made to clean human excrement by hand from an aeration pond on the compound with no protective equipment, while Claire Headley was banned from the dining hall for up to eight months in 2002. She lost 30 pounds (14 kg) as a result of subsisting on protein bars and water. In addition, she was coerced into having two abortions to comply with the Sea Org’s no-children policy. The Headleys also experienced physical violence from Scientology executives and saw others being treated violently.
“However, the court found that the Church enjoyed the protection of the free exercise of religion clause in the First Amendment, and that it could use the ‘ministerial exemptions’ in employment law to deflect litigation over its treatment of its members. The judge ruled that the First Amendment disallowed the courts from ‘examining church operations rooted in religious scripture’. … The ruling has effectively meant that it is impossible to bring charges against the Church based on claims of ‘trafficking in persons.’ As one attorney has put it, ‘Here is a court saying, albeit in a civil situation … that there is nothing improper with this type of conduct and no ill motive can be imbued to the church.’”
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