Louisiana guestworkers expose forced labor on Walmart supply chain
Crawfish workers report forced labor, discrimination, wage & hour violations to Dep’t of Labor
NEW ORLEANS, LA—Walmart supplier C.J.’s Seafood has subjected 40 Mexican guestworkers on H-2B visas to forced labor, wage and hour violations, and discrimination, according to a worker complaint to the Department of Labor to be filed on Thursday, June 6. The workers will detail their charges and call on Walmart to eliminate forced labor among its seafood suppliers at a press conference at a New Orleans-area Sam’s Club at on June 6.
A group of workers went on strike from Breaux Bridge, Louisiana-based C.J.’s Seafood on June 4, reporting that the employer and supervisors have forced them to work up to 24-hour shifts with no overtime pay, locked them in the plant, threatened them with beatings to make them work faster, and threatened violence against their families back in Mexico after workers contacted law enforcement out of desperation.
C.J.’s Seafood sells an estimated 85% of its crawfish to Walmart’s Sam’s Club stores.
“Once when I was getting my pay check, the boss showed me that he had a gun in his desk. I think he wanted me to know that he was armed because I’m the kind of person that stands up for my rights.” – Guestworker Rosendo Castillo, 52
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.
The workers will call on Walmart to:
1. End forced labor at C.J.’s Seafood. It should require C.J.’s Seafood to adhere to Walmart supplier standards that prohibit forced labor. If C.J.’s refuses to annul threats made on workers' families, and to guarantee dignified work and fair pay for these workers, Walmart should cancel its contract.
2. Cooperate in a public investigation of its Gulf Coast seafood supply chain and ensure that all workers are protected from forced labor.
3. Since Walmart has already profited from selling the products of the workers’ forced labor, Walmart should use those profits to repay the C.J.’s Seafood workers for their unpaid work.
The National Guestworker Alliance is a membership organization of guestworkers engaging in workplace fights across many industries to win dignified conditions, just migration policy, and new rights and protections for all workers.