Investigative Commission, Mexican gov’t meet over Walmart

This month, the National Investigative Commission into forced labor on Wal-Mart’s U.S. supply chain traveled to Mexico to meet with workers, Mexican government officials, and Mexican human, civil, and labor rights groups.

Below is a statement released by the Commission on October 30, 2012:

In our work as civil, human, and labor rights advocates before forming this Commission, we had long been aware of a wide range of labor abuses by Wal-Mart, from wage theft and the locking of store workers into stores, to overt and systematic sexual discrimination in hiring and promotion. In recent days, hundreds of Wal-Mart store workers have gone on strike across America, protesting the company’s retaliation against workers who organized for basic dignity. We stand in solidarity with those workers.

We formed this Commission in June 2012, following the exposure of forced labor at Wal-Mart supplier C.J.’s Seafood. The case of C.J.’s revealed that severe labor abuses extended beyond Wal-Mart stores, to Wal-Mart’s 60,000 suppliers. Wal-Mart did nothing to protect the rights of workers at C.J.’s, despite long-standing public assurances that it is policing its supply chain. And a preliminary investigation by the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA) revealed that it was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of forced labor Wal-Mart’s U.S. supply chain.

This month, members of this commission traveled to Mexico City to seek the help of a variety of partners: representatives of the Mexican government, former Wal-Mart supply chain workers, and Mexican human, civil, and labor rights groups.

A worker named Manuela traveled from Sinaloa to meet with the commission. She’d worked as a guestworker in Louisiana for sub-minimum wage pay. When she and other workers organized, their boss threatened to call immigration authorities, then blacklisted the workers so they couldn’t get jobs at other plants.

The Mexican advocates we met with were stunned by the workers’ stories—and by their bravery in organizing in the face of retaliation. The many Mexican journalists who covered our visit for national and international outlets were as well.

We also met with Emb. Roberto Rodríguez Hernández, Director General of the Mexican Ministry of the Exterior, who committed to assembling a meeting with workers, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Labor, and this Commission to address the Mexican government’s obligation to monitor forced labor among Mexican guestworkers on Wal-Mart’s U.S. supply chain.

We thank the Ministry for its serious and constructive commitment to working with this commission to protect Mexican nationals from forced labor on Wal-Mart’s U.S. supply chain. We intend to hold it to this task.

We believe our visit contributed to the growing momentum on both sides of the border—from the halls of Mexican parliament to Gulf Coast labor camps to Wal-Mart stores where workers are on strike—to hold the world’s largest private employer accountable for labor abuse.

Worker leader Olivia Guzman, who joined our meeting with the Ministry, said:

“We are beginning something big. Just weeks ago, other Mexican guestworkers filed suit against another Louisiana Wal-Mart supplier called Riceland Crawfish. I worked there in 2008, and even after working 11-hour days, we often weren’t paid enough even to buy food. After so many years, people are tired of the abuse. We are standing up and defending our rights.”

On behalf of the National Investigative Commission into Forced Labor on Wal-Mart’s U.S. Supply Chain:

  • Alejandra Ancheita – Director, Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC)
  • Patrick O’Neill – Executive Vice-President, United Food and Commercial Workers
  • Scott Nova – Director, Worker Rights Consortium
  • Terry O’Neill – President, National Organization for Women
  • Saket Soni – Director, National Guestworker Alliance

 

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