Severe Human Rights Violations at Food Processing Facilities Result in Global Labor Issues for Walmart
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Last week thousands of workers at two different Thai food processing facilities protested their extremely poor working conditions. Both facilities, Phattahana Seafood and Vita Food Factory, are suppliers to Walmart stores across the US. Disturbing reports coming out of the region indicate that the questionable treatment of workers extends well-beyond the US border and signals deeper global issues.
Early reports indicate a series of severe human and worker rights violations, including confiscation of passports and conditions that appear to fit the definition of human trafficking and debt bondage.
In response to these egregious violations, Making Change at Walmart sent a letter to Walmart’s Ethical Sourcing director calling for the immediate defense of migrant workers in the food processing facilities. The letter detailed violations being committed by two separate plants, including one fruit (primarily pineapple) processor and one seafood (primarily shrimp) producer. Phattahan Seafood Factory may be holding as many as 2,000 confiscated passports belonging to migrant workers from Myanmar and Cambodia. A number of the workers have started to illegally flee the plant to return to their country despite lack of documentation.
Excerpt from the letter:
As the largest grocer in the world and the largest importer of shrimp in the United States, Walmart has a responsibility to call for an end to this treatment of workers and do more to ensure that this treatment is not occurring in other supplier factories.
Since the release of Walmart’s Global Responsibility Report on Monday, environmental groups have raised questions about a number of items that may have been overlooked in the report. To be sure, these latest accusations fly in the face of claims of responsible and sustainable sourcing.