Guestworkers press Wal-Mart on worker protections, immigration reform
Workers who exposed forced labor on Wal-Mart supply chain meet top company officials
BENTONVILLE, AK, Feb. 11, 2013—Guestworkers who exposed forced labor on Wal-Mart’s supply chain met with senior company officials on Feb. 8 as part of ongoing talks to increase transparency and accountability on Wal-Mart’s U.S. supply chain.
The meeting included Ana Rosa Diaz and Martha Uvalle—two of the guestworkers who exposed forced labor at Wal-Mart supplier CJ’s Seafood in June 2012—and staff of the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA), as well as senior Wal-Mart Ethical Sourcing executives and others.
Noting that Wal-Mart board member Arne Sorenson met with the White House recently to discuss the expansion of guestworker programs, the workers pressed for protections against the severe labor abuse that is common in current guestworker programs. At CJ’s Seafood, guestworkers were forced to work shifts of up to 24 hours without overtime pay, locked into the plant, and faced threats of violence against themselves and their families when they spoke up.
“It’s important for Wal-Mart, as the world’s largest private employer, to support strong protections for all temporary workers,” said Saket Soni, NGA Executive Director. “Those protections have to support the right to organize and prevent employers from retaliating when workers speak up against abuse. If guestworker program rules continue to create captive workers, no amount of corporate or government monitoring will stop exploitation.”
The workers requested a meeting with company officials who are setting Wal-Mart’s immigration reform agenda, including board member Arne Sorensen.
Said former CJ’s Seafood worker Martha Uvalle: “At CJ’s, we lived under constant threats of deportation and blacklisting. We met with Wal-Mart to propose solutions that will protect all guestworkers from the abuse we faced. We stood up not just for ourselves, but for workers around the world.”