Foreign guest workers are employed in many of the food processing companies that supply Walmart. The workers are given H-2B visas allowing them to work in the U.S.
Advocates for workers found conditions at C.J.’s Seafood Company in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana that supplies Walmart especially terrible.
Several immigrant workers said they had been locked in the plant and some days they were forced to work 16 to 24 hours. They sometimes worked more than 80 hours a week and were threatened with beatings to make them work faster. Some were warned that their families in Mexico would be hurt if they complained to government agencies.
Walmart said it was investigating C.J.’s Seafood Company. It suspended the company as a supplier while awaiting the outcome of its investigation. It will end its relationship with the company if the charges are true.
The United States Labor Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are conducting their own investigations of the seafood processor.
Advocates charge that there are violations of health, safety and wage laws across the industries supplying big box stores. Walmart said, “We work with 60,000 suppliers in the U.S., and we have rigorous standards that our suppliers are required to follow.”
New rules for the guest worker program were proposed several months ago. The rules granted new rights to guest workers—including whistleblower protections—and forcing employers to prove they have searched for American workers before turning to guest workers. The Senate has not yet implemented the new rules at the request of the food companies.