Probe reveals 622 federal labor violations at 12 U.S. Walmart suppliers

Probe reveals 622 federal labor violations at 12 U.S. Walmart suppliers

Survey shows preliminary evidence of forced labor across Walmart supply chain

NEW YORK, NY, June 29, 2012—In a review of 18 U.S. Walmart suppliers that employ guestworkers, two-thirds show preliminary evidence of forced labor, including 622 federal citations for safety, health, and wage and hour violations (download PDF), as well as dozens of federal lawsuits alleging significant violations of civil and labor rights law.

These violations suggest a fundamental disregard for the law by the majority of U.S. Wal-Mart suppliers surveyed, and given the additional constraints of the guestworker program, amount to strong preliminary evidence of forced labor conditions for the guestworkers on Wal-Mart’s U.S. supply chain.

The National Guestworker Alliance (NGA) conducted the review after H-2B guestworkers went on strike to expose forced labor at Wal-Mart supplier C.J.’s Seafood in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, on June 4. And independent investigation by the Worker Rights Consortium, a leading labor watchdog, found “systematic violations of labor law and grossly inhumane treatment” at the Walmart supplier, saying that conditions “rival any sweatshop in China or Bangladesh.”

The NGA identified 18 Walmart suppliers who rely on guestworkers, and uncovered violations suggesting preliminary evidence of forced labor conditions at 12 of them:

  • America’s Catch Inc.– Catfish processor; Itta Bena, MS
  • Aqua Farms Crawfish – Crawfish processor; Basile, LA
  • Bland Farms – Sweet onion producer; GA, TX, UT, FL, NY, CA, PA
  • Blue Ridge Growers – Vegetable, herb, flower growers; Stevensburg, VA
  • Bruce Foods – Manufacturer of Tex Mex and Cajun food products; New Iberia, LA; Cade, LA; Wilson, NC; El Paso, TX
  • Chelan Fresh Marketing Co. – Marketer of fruit products; Chelan, WA
  • Liuzza Produce Farms – Strawberry grower; LA
  • Riceland Foods Inc. – Miller and marketer of rice; Stuttgart, AK
  • Southern Pride Catfish Co. – Catfish; Greensboro, AL (subsidiary of American Seafoods Group)
  • Tanimura & Antle Inc. – Lettuce grower/distributor; Salinas, CA
  • Trident Seafoods Corp. – Harvester, processor, and marketer of seafood; Seattle, WA
  • Walter P Rawls & Sons Inc. – Vegetable producer; Pelion, SC

“The staggering number of federal labor violations we found at two-thirds of the U.S Walmart suppliers we surveyed shows that Walmart is making no serious effort to enforce its own Standards for Suppliers,” said Saket Soni, NGA Executive Director. “These violations are further proof that Walmart needs to enter into a productive dialogue with us and the C.J.’s Seafood guestworkers to discuss real enforcement to end forced labor, and to shift to a business model that doesn’t rely on the exploitation of guestworkers.”

Guestworkers are particularly vulnerable to severe forms of labor exploitation, including forced labor, because of the debt they incur to participate in the guestworker program, the fact that their legal status is bound to a single employer, and employers’ frequent threats of deportation and blacklisting to silence whistle-blowers.

Said Ana Rosa Diaz, an NGA member and one of the guestworkers who exposed forced labor at C.J.’s Seafood: “We’ve visited guestworkers in other seafood plants, and conditions may be different, but we all have one thing in common: All our bosses threaten us, and we are all afraid to report abuse.”

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 who employ guestworkers.

Also, following Walmart’s ongoing refusal to meet with the guestworkers who exposed forced labor at C.J.’s Seafood to negotiate protections for guestworkers on its supply chain—in spite of more than 144,000 Change.org petitions asking them to do so—the workers will be holding a 24-hour fast starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 30, outside the penthouse home of Walmart board member Michelle Burns in New York City (8 Spruce Street, NY, NY).

READ THE FULL RESULTS: Preliminary Evidence of Forced Labor on WalMart Supply Chain

CONTACT: Stephen Boykewich, c. 718-791-9162, stephen@guestworkeralliance.org

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.

For more information, visit guestworkeralliance.org. Live petition signature total at change.org/walmart

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