Even Wal-Mart Objects to H-2B Worker Abuse by Supplier

By David North on July 19, 2012

An H-2B employer has obtained a remarkably dismal distinction.

Its record of work exploitation is so dreadful that ultra-conservative, union-busting Wal-Mart has stopped buying its products while a corporate investigation continues.

The firm is CJ's Seafood, a crawfish processing company in rural Breaux Bridge, La.

Scott Nova, executive director of the labor-market monitoring agency the Workers Rights Consortium, is quoted in the New York Times saying, "It's one of the worst workplaces we ever encountered anywhere."

The Times article provides chapter and verse on the abuses of the workers — including threatened beatings and many forced 80-hour weeks — but blurs the immigration policy implications by not naming the H-2B program, the only program that could be used in this industry, and by this accurate but bland sentence: "Guest workers are temporary workers from abroad who typically receive special visas to do seasonal work."

The H-2B program is used by some employers to obtain non-skilled, non-agricultural workers; Mexican nationals predominate in the program.

Similarly, there is no reference in the article to this situation as part of a larger pattern of usually less dramatic exploitation in the nonimmigrant worker programs, nor is there any discussion of the recent congressional action to blunt the administration's attempts to bring a little economic justice to the H-2B program.

On the other hand, I suppose we should be grateful that the Times published anything at all on these events, so distant from any metropolitan area. The story was written by the paper's veteran labor reporter, Steven Greenhouse.

Crawfish, which are something like small, freshwater lobsters, are grown in farm ponds in the South and the work of extracting the flesh from them is tedious and time-consuming. Crawdaddies is another term for them.