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Exploited Labor In The USA

We’ll look at forced labor in America. From a fish factory in Louisiana to the national picture.

Guestworkers peeling crawfish at Walmart supplier C.J.'s Seafood, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. (National Guestworker Alliance)

Guestworkers peeling crawfish at Walmart supplier C.J.’s Seafood, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. (National Guestworker Alliance)

The story out of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana sounded Third World.  Guest workers in a seafood processing plant allegedly forced to work 24-hour shifts.  80-hour weeks.  Barricaded in so they couldn’t escape.  Threatened with beatings to work faster.  Bullied.  Underpaid.  Families threatened.  Forced labor.

Last month, Wal-Mart suspended the supplier of crawfish, and the horror stories ricocheted around the country.  But in a bad economy, with the pressure on, exploited labor doesn’t just happen on the bayou.

This hour, On Point:  On the bottom rung.  Exploited labor in America.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Amanda McElfresh, a reporter for The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, La.

Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute. Former commissioner of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Saket Soni, executive director of the National Guestworker Alliance. He is also executive director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.

Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Times-Picayune “Eight striking laborers protesting the working conditions at a crawfish processing plant in Breaux Bridge met with supporters this afternoon in the Airline Drive parking lotof Sam’s Club, the plant’s main customer. The workers, who came from Mexico on temporary work visas, complained of being threatened with beatings and forced to work long hours peeling crawfish at C J’s Seafood for no overtime pay, said Jacob Horwitz, a lead organizer for the National Guestworker Alliance, which hosted today’s event.”

The New York Times “It is time to banish the idea that forced labor and sweatshop exploitation are problems of bygone eras or distant countries. These conditions exist within America’s borders. On June 29, Wal-Mart said it had suspended one of its seafood suppliers in Louisiana for violating its workplace standards. The action came as an advocacy group for foreign guest workers announced that it had uncovered appalling abuses at the company, C. J.’s Seafood, and at a dozen other Wal-Mart suppliers too.”

Daily Advertiser “Federal authorities are investigating the Breaux Bridge seafood supplier C.J.’s Seafood amid allegations of wage and labor violations and Wal-Mart’s decision to stop using products from the supplier.”

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