An investigation by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) has found labor law violations and inhumane treatment of workers at a Walmart seafood supplier in Louisiana.
The 37-page report published Wednesday alleges Mexican “guest workers” are forced to work shifts of up to 24 hours during peak production periods, with as few as four hours between shifts. According to the report, workers are paid 40 percent below the legal minimum wage. The WRC concluded that the totality of the abuses taking place at this employer constitute forced labor under U.S. law.
The WRC is an independent labor rights watchdog which launched the investigation of the employer, C.J.’s Seafood, in response to an urgent worker complaint. According to the National Guestworker Alliance, which helped workers at the factory organize and brought the complaint to the WRC, 85% of the crawfish at C.J.’s is processed for Walmart.
The affected workers are laborers from Mexico, here under the U.S. government’s H2-B guest worker visa program. The report says virtually every aspect of the worker’s lives are controlled by the employer, and are subjected to threats of deportation and violence in order to frighten them into submission.
“Most Americans would be shocked that such conditions exist in this country. These workers, who process seafood for America’s largest retailer, are forced to work hours that no human being should have to endure, are paid far less than the minimum wage, live in squalor on the employer’s property, and are threatened with dire consequences if they dare to complain,” WRC Executive Director Scott Nova said in a statement.
“Walmart, which undoubtedly benefits from the low production costs made possible by these abuses, did nothing to protect the rights of workers at this facility, despite long-standing public assurances that it is policing labor practices in its supply chain,” Nova went on to say.
The guest workers have filed complaints with the US Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.