Guestworkers at a Walmart seafood supplier based in Louisiana went on strike Monday, June 4th, to protest abusive working conditions, including rat-infested housing, long hours without overtime pay and threats made against workers and their families to intimidate them from organizing.
The workers are in the United States with H-2B visas, which allow foreign nationals to work temporary, non-agricultural jobs if the employer can demonstrate that “there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available to do the temporary work.” Forty guestworkers from Mexico work at C.J.’s Seafood peeling and boiling crawfish five months out of the year. The company sells an estimated 85% of its crawfish to Walmart.
Workers at the seafood company are said to work up to twenty-four hours straight without overtime pay. They pay $45 of their earnings per week to live in crowded trailers with vermin and no air conditioning, according to one worker. These conditions were documented in a complaint filed last week with the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
C.J.’s Seafood’s general manager, Michael Leblanc, was cited in the complaint. Incidentally, Leblanc also heads the Crawfish Processors Alliance, which is fighting the Department of Labor’s efforts to improve pay for H-2B guestworkers.
On Wednesday, eight striking guestworkers were joined by activists with organizations like the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice and the National Guestworker Alliance at a rally outside a Sam’s Club, where they called on Walmart to uphold the dignity and human rights of workers within its supply chain.
This post was written by Kurt Scott.