Breaking Chains at Walmart coverage – New Orleans Times-Picayune – 6/6/12

Striking guest workers from Breaux Bridge crawfish plant protest Sam’s Club in Metairie

June 06, 2012, 1:30 PM
By Richard Rainey, The Times-Picayune 

Eight striking laborers protesting the working conditions at a crawfish processing plant in Breaux Bridge met with supporters this afternoon in the Airline Drive parking lotof Sam’s Club, the plant’s main customer. The workers, who came from Mexico on temporary work visas, complained of being threatened with beatings and forced to work long hours peeling crawfish at C J’s Seafood for no overtime pay, said Jacob Horwitz, a lead organizer for the National Guestworker Alliance, which hosted today’s event.

David Grunfeld / The Times-Picayune: Laborers protesting working conditions at a Breaux Bridge crawfish processing plant met at Sam’s Club in Metairie.

“Most of the workforce was absolutely terrified,” he said.

Horwitz said today’s rally was meant to bring attention to the plight of workers hired under the federal H-2B temporary worker program. About a dozen protesters, most holding signs that read “dignity,” gathered in the noonday heat. The group moved to the sidewalk at the behest of two Sam’s Club managers, who refused to receive a letter from the workers explaining what happened and listing their demands.

The workers are calling for an end to the alleged forced labor at C J’s Seafood, for Walmart, which owns Sam’s Club, to repay the workers for profits made from crawfish and a public investigation of how Gulf Coast crawfish is processed and distributed, according to a statement.

Carrie Foster, a spokeswoman for Sam’s Club, said in an email that the company had launched an investigation into the workers’ complaints.

Horwitz said C J’s Seafood supplies 85 percent of the crawfish sold at Sam’s Club. A man who answered the phone at C J’s didn’t identify himself, but said owner Mike LeBlanc wouldn’t comment.

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