Guest Workers Force Walmart 1% to Open an Investigation
In an exciting pivot from the shareholder spring, 99% crawfish workers in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana are organizing not only targeting their immediate employer, but the also demanding action from the 1%ers at Walmart who profit from their work. Guest workers filed a U.S. Department of Labor complaint against CJ's Seafood earlier today in Louisiana after walking out over egregious conditions, receiving physical threats for not working fast enough and after the employer threatened violence against their families back in Mexico after workers contacted law enforcement out of desperation. CJ's Seafood is a supplier to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), the No 1. U.S. retailer.
“My husband and I have been coming to work at this plant for five years. This year our oldest son came too. We’ve never spoken out because we were afraid, but I’m sick and tired of being humiliated year after year—even more now that our son is here—while Mike [Leblanc] threatens us and him.” said Silvia Alfaro Walle
This afternoon, Walmart opened an investigation--acknowledging that something has gone very wrong in their supply chain. "As soon as we received reports of potential violation of our ethical sourcing policy we launched an investigation," said Megan Murphy in the International Business Times. Murphy is the international corporate affairs manager for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer. "We take reports like this very seriously and we will take appropriate actions based on the findings from our investigation."
The nature and timeline of the investigation are still unclear. Guestworkers, and other workers and community leaders in the Walmart web, are calling for a thorough, transparent investigation that protects the workers by partnering with the organizations representing them.
Despite threats to their families, guestworkers in Louisiana went on strike yesterday to expose forced labor on the Walmart supply chain. In Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, Walmart supplier C.J.’s Seafood has subjected 40 Mexican guestworkers on H-‐2B visas to forced labor, stolen wages, unfair labor practices and discrimination—from which Walmart has profited. Workers live in crowded trailers in a labor camp adjacent to their employers’ house. The employer has subjected workers to constant surveillance, unannounced house inspections, and threats of firing for leaving their housing later than 9 p.m. Guestworkers are forced to start work as early at 2 a.m. and to perform unpaid cleaning work as conditions of employment. C.J. Seafood’s U.S. workers are not.
While C.J.’s Seafood general manager Michael Leblanc has subjected guestworkers to forced labor, he has also helped drive an industry‐wide effort to block new Department of Labor rules for the H-‐2B guestworker program that would protect guestworkers and U.S. workers alike. Leblanc is director of the Crawfish Processor’s Alliance, which sued the Department of Labor to block the new rules.
C.J.'s Seafood has refused to comment on the issue.
"This is a particular case because Wal-Mart takes responsibility for their entire supply chain," said Stephen Boykewich of New Orleans-based National Guestworker Alliance. Such an investigation may support others organizing along Walmart's supply and distribution chain--including warehouse workers in Los Angeles and Chicago.