National investigative commission launches amid evidence of forced labor at 12 U.S. Walmart suppliers
Guestworkers to hold 24-hour fast demanding Walmart stop profiting from forced labor
NEW YORK, NY, June 25, 2012—Three weeks after guestworkers exposed forced labor at a Louisiana Walmart supplier called C.J.’s Seafood, the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA) has uncovered preliminary evidence of forced labor conditions across a dozen workplaces on Walmart’s U.S. supply chain.
The preliminary evidence includes 622 federal citations for safety, health, and wage and hour violations (PDF), as well as dozens of federal lawsuits alleging significant violations of civil and labor rights law at Walmart’s U.S. suppliers that employ guestworkers.
The NGA has formed a national investigative commission of civil and labor rights experts to conduct a full investigation into Walmart’s failure to enforce its own Standards for Suppliers, which forbid forced labor, among its U.S. suppliers.
Also, following Walmart’s ongoing refusal to meet with the guestworker members of the NGA to negotiate protections for guestworkers on its supply chain—in spite of 146,000 Change.org petitions asking them to do so—the workers will be holding a 24-hour fast on June 30 outside the penthouse home of Walmart board member Michelle Burns in New York City.
“Walmart has shown a reckless disregard for its obligation to raise its suppliers’ working conditions above the level of forced labor,” said NGA Executive Director Saket Soni. “Every rock we lift on Walmart’s supply chain turns up more potential evidence of forced labor. This commission will expose those cases and show how to stop them, with or without Walmart’s participation.”
The commission includes:
- Barbara Ehrenreich – Labor expert, author of Nickeled and Dimed, Bait and Switch
- Terry O’Neill – President, National Organization for Women
- Patrick O’Neill – Executive Vice-President, United Food and Commercial Workers
- William Quigley – Professor of Law, Loyola University
- Bill Fletcher, Jr. – Labor writer, author of Solidarity Divided
- Scott Nova – Director, Worker Rights Consortium
- Alejandra Ancheita – Director, Proyecto de Derechos Sociales, Políticos y Sindicales (ProDESC)
- Helene O’Brien – Director, SEIU Local 21 Louisiana
- Saket Soni – Director, National Guestworker Alliance
Guestworker members of the NGA went on strike from Walmart supplier C.J.’s Seafood on June 4, reporting to the federal Department of Labor (DOL) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that they had been subjected to forced labor, shifts of up to 24 hours with no overtime pay, constant surveillance, and threats of violence against themselves and their families in retaliation for seeking basic labor and civil rights.
Their reports of forced labor were confirmed by an independent investigation by the Worker Rights Consortium, which concluded: “The conditions at this Walmart supplier are among the worst we have encountered, rivaling any sweatshop in China or Bangladesh.”
Probes by the DOL’s Wage and Hour division, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and EEOC are ongoing.
Walmart has refused to respond to the NGA’s demands to cut off its contract with C.J.’s Seafood, meet the striking guestworkers, and commit to basic standards to prevent forced labor and guarantee civil and labor rights for guestworkers across the Walmart supply chain.
CONTACT: Stephen Boykewich, c. 718-791-9162, email@example.com
ABOUT NGA: 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.