Acadiana Business

Walmart halts contract with C.J.'s Seafood of Breaux Bridge

by Heather Miller

‘We were forced to work 15- to 24-hour shifts and we were threatened with violence when we tried to take breaks. Our boss threatened us and our families ...' CJsSeafoodC.J.'s Seafood processing company of Breaux Bridge is under federal fire for alleged gross mistreatment of its seasonal immigrant workers, an allegation that's prompted one of the country's largest retail chains to halt its contract with the St. Martin Parish seafood supplier after a petition against C.J.'s gained more than 140,000 electronic signatures.

The petition on was created by the National Guestworker Alliance and cites the story of 40-year-old Ana Rosa Diaz, a guest worker from Mexico who says she "peels crawfish for a company called C.J.'s Seafood, which sells 85% of its products to Walmart:"

Our boss forces us to work up to 24 hours at a time with no overtime pay. No matter how fast we work, they scream and curse at us to make us work faster. Our supervisor threatens to beat us with a shovel to stop us from taking breaks.

We live in trailers across from the boss's house, and we're under surveillance all the time. The supervisors come into our trailers without warning, and they threaten to fire us if we leave after 9 p.m.

The supervisor also locked us in the plant so we couldn't take breaks. One worker called 911. After that the boss rounded us up at 2:30 a.m., closed the door to keep the American employees out, and threatened our families.

He said, "As a friend I can be very good, but you don't want to know me as an enemy. I have contacts with good people and bad people, and I know where all your families live. I can find you no matter where you hide." We were terrified.

As first reported by Gambit and later The Teche News, the petition's goal was for Walmart to stop doing business with C.J.'s, a feat that the petition has apparently succeeded in achieving: A Reuters report published on The Chicago Tribune's website confirms that Walmart has ceased its contract with C.J.'s, which has a staff of 50-60 comprised mostly of seasonal, migrant workers who qualify for an H-2B guest worker visa.

As Jeremy Alford reported in The Independent's May 30 cover story, "Industrial Waste," most Louisianans are likely unfamiliar with the H-2B guest worker program, though "you have probably enjoyed the yield it produces."

The Reuters piece also reveals that C.J.'s is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Read more here and here.