WRC Factory Investigation

C.J.’s Seafood

Factory: C.J.'s Seafood

Key Buyers: Walmart

Year: 2012

Case Summary

On June 5, 2012, the WRC received a complaint on behalf of C.J.’s Seafood workers from the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA). Due to the extreme nature of the violations, the WRC began expedited investigations on June 8. The vast majority of workers at the factory were from Mexico on temporary, seasonal visas. After conducting interviews with workers, the WRC found grave and systematic abuses of the rights of this highly vulnerable workforce, including grossly excessive hours of work, severe and constant harassment and psychological abuse, wages far below the legal minimum, oppressive living conditions, discrimination based on national origin, and threats of violence aimed at preventing workers from reporting these abuses to regulatory and law enforcement agencies. Taken as a whole, these conditions subjected workers to a situation that constituted forced labor, and the threats of violence made by C.J.’s management for the purpose of deterring workers from reporting the company’s violations constituted obstruction of justice under US law.

Neither the factory management nor Walmart’s investigative representative responded to the WRC’s inquiries during the investigation. Among other things, the WRC recommended that Walmart place no more orders until the factory demonstrates compliance with labor standards, that Walmart compensate workers in a manner negotiated with the workers and the NGA, and that a binding agreement to enforce labor standards at the factory be established. Walmart suspended its relationship with factory at the end of June 2012. The following month, the U.S. Department of Labor found that the company owed $76,608 in back pay to 73 workers, and fined the company for a number of serious safety violations.

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