U.S. crawfish supplier fined for labor violations
By Steven Hedlund, SeafoodSource editor
25 July, 2012
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on Tuesday hit Walmart crawfish supplier C.J.’s Seafood of Breaux Bridge, La., with a USD 34,000 fine and ordered the company to pay USD 214,000 for wage and hour violations.
The DOL cited C.J.’s Seafood with 11 safety violations, ranging from failing to properly equip the processing plant with fire extinguishers, exit signs and emergency eyewash stations to failing to implement a hazard communications program.
The agency also found that the company failed to pay minimum wage and overtime to 73 workers and violated provisions of the H-2B temporary foreign worker visa program. The company owes the workers, who peel and boil seafood, a total of USD 76,608. It’s also liable for an additional USD 70,014 in liquidated damages, USD 32,120 in civil damages for overtime violations and USD 35,000 for H-2B violations.
“This employer took illegal advantage of the H-2B program, which put it in a position to undercut its competition that plays by the rules,” said Nancy Leppink, deputy administrator of the DOL’s wage and hour division. “American workers seeking jobs should not be compelled to accept substandard wages and working conditions due to employers' abuse of temporary foreign worker visa programs.”
C.J.’s Seafood was the subject of an investigation a Worker Rights Consortium investigation that found “systematic violations of labor law and grossly inhumane treatment” at the company, which supplies crawfish to Walmart. Following the investigation, the retailer, North America’s largest, suspended doing business with C.J.’s Seafood.
Then the National Guestworker Alliance conducted an investigation of its own into 18 Walmart suppliers that employ guest workers via the H-2B visa program, and four U.S. seafood suppliers were among the 12 companies identified by the workers’ rights organization.
After the investigation, both Trident Seafoods and America’s Catch, which were among the four U.S. seafood suppliers called out by the alliance, refuted the accusations and defended their labor and safety records.
25 July, 2012