Solidarity Center Defends Abuse Report at Hearing

By

SeafoodSource staff

Published on
May 29, 2008

The Solidarity Center reiterated its accusations of ongoing worker abuses at Thai and Bangladeshi shrimp farms and processing facilities on Wednesday at a Department of Labor hearing in Washington, D.C.

The National Fisheries Institute of McLean, Va., again criticized the organization for failing to provide specific information about the companies responsible for the abuses alleged in its April report, "The True Cost of Shrimp."

"This is a disappointing development," says NFI Director of International Affairs Stetson Tinkham, who attended the hearing. "If these allegations are true the seafood community is uniquely positioned to affect change. But simply repeating allegations without backing them up with specifics does little to solve the alleged problems and instead erodes the credibility of the claims."

NFI President John Connelly, who is touring shrimp facilities in Thailand, added that without specific information about the companies responsible for the alleged abuses, "Our efforts are being needlessly frustrated."

Earlier this month, a spokesperson for the Solidarity Center, which is based in Washington, D.C., and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, told SeaFood Business that withholding detailed information protects the workers' jobs. The report claims shrimp-processing plant workers are beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted and underpaid; some are children. Instead of naming plants responsible for the alleged abuses, the report named the U.S. importers and retailers, including Costco, Trader Joe's and Wal-Mart, that source shrimp from the plants.

"Our primary concern is the security and well being of the workers involved in this study," said Joan Welsh, communications program officer for the Solidarity Center's Global Outreach Department. "We want to avoid a situation where facilities are shut down, workers are fired and worker rights advocates are endangered in an attempt to suppress rather than address the industry's problems."

The Department of Labor held the hearing because it is required by U.S. law to develop a list of imported goods that are suspected of being produced by child and forced labor.

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