DOL slams Walmart supplier for $248,000 after forced labor exposé

Dep’t of Labor slams Walmart supplier for $248,000 in penalties, fines, back wages after forced labor exposé

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 24, 2012—Today, the Department of Labor (DOL) cited Walmart supplier C.J.’s Seafood for serious and willful violations of federal labor law, demanding over $248,000 in back wages, fines, and penalties. The citations reinforced guestworkers’ reports of forced labor by the Walmart supplier, which Walmart attempted to cover up.

The DOL fined C.J.’s $34,300 for 11 serious health and safety violations; demanded $146,622 in back wages and liquidated damages; and imposed $32,120 in civil money penalties for willful violations of the employer’s obligations, as well as $35,000 in penalties for willful violations of the H-2B program and the obligation to pay overtime.

The DOL investigation began after guestworker members of the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA) went on strike from C.J.’s Seafood and filed official complaints with the DOL on June 6.

Walmart attempted a cover-up, falsely claiming in print on June 14 that the federal investigations had ended without finding violations. Walmart was forced to admit to labor violations at C.J.’s and suspend its contract with the supplier under intense public pressure, including nearly 150,000 signatures to the workers’ Change.org petition.

“We know that hundreds of other guestworkers at other Walmart suppliers are facing abuse,” said Ana Rosa Diaz, an NGA member and former C.J.’s Seafood guestworker. “Now that the U.S. government has confirmed our claims of abuse at C.J.’s, it’s time for Walmart to sit down with us to agree to a solution.”

“Corporations like Walmart are driving up profits by driving down wages and conditions across their supply chains,” said NGA Executive Director Saket Soni. “Since Walmart is either unable or unwilling to enforce its own Standards for Suppliers, we formed a national investigative commission into labor abuses on the Walmart supply chain. Walmart should cooperate with the commission.”

The DOL’s findings bolstered findings of forced labor at C.J.’s Seafood by the Worker Rights Consortium, which conducted an independent investigation in June.

The DOL has set new rules for the H-2B guestworker program that would make guestworkers less vulnerable to exploitation and forced labor, as a new NGA report details, but the rules have been blocked by corporate lobbyists.

The NGA is calling on Walmart to:

1. Guarantee that the workers who exposed forced labor at CJ’s will not face retaliation, blacklisting, or discrimination from other Walmart suppliers;

2. Reveal all of the guestworkers on its US supply chain; and

3. Adopt the NGA’s standards for civil and labor rights for guestworkers on its supply chain.

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

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