Target: Walmart CEO Michael Duke
Goal: Break ties with a shrimp processing plant that uses underage slave labor
Nearly 90 percent of shrimp in American stores is imported from South Asia, where working conditions are unacceptable. One Thai shrimp producer named Narong Seafood is accused of labor abuses, including illegal use of underage workers. This was revealed in a recent report by International Labor Rights Forum and the Warehouse Workers United. Narong Seafood is a supplier for Walmart. It is imperative that the chain stops business relations with Narong immediately.
Walmart is claiming that it stopped buying shrimp from Narong in 2012 after a bad audit, but an Excel document obtained by Mother Jones magazine shows that Walmart may have imported 36,000 pounds of Narong shrimp on March 21, 2013 through a middleman US company called National Fish and Seafood. When asked to comment on the spreadsheet, Walmart press officer said that Narong was only used for the export license and that shrimp was processed at a different facility. Further questions, such as what facility that was, why it did not possess its own export license, and whether it had been audited, were not answered neither by Walmart, nor by National Fish and Seafood.
Walmart has taken a strong position (on paper) that it does not tolerate child labor in its supply chain. Yet, the International Labor Rights Forum and the Warehouse Workers United report states that Narong Seafood is forcing underage employees to work the night shift, when there can be no inspection from Thai Labor Ministry, or international buyers and auditors. Inspections, according to the report, were always announced and superficial. The report also claims that wages were illegally slashed after a slowdown at the plant and that undocumented foreign workers were charged very high fees for employment papers. Narong denied all these claims. Yet, this assessment is in line with independent reporting on labor conditions in Thailand’s shrimp industry. For example, in an article in the Washington Post there was a story about a 14-year-old Burmese girl who reported working for 16 hours seven days a week and earned less than $3 a day. “Mon was beaten if she slowed down … and when she asked for a day off to rest hands swollen with infection, her boss kicked her and threatened rape.”
People do not deserve to be treated this way to process shrimp for American consumers. Audits are flawed by corrupt government and industry interests. Walmart has to step up and ensure that any seafood it sells is processed humanely and in an environmentally friendly way. Demand that the company CEO be more vigilant in the choices Walmart makes and what suppliers it contracts with.
Dear Mr. Duke,
Americans love shrimp, but even more than that, they want their food to be processed in a humane way. According to Mother Jones magazine, as recently as March 21, 2013, Walmart imported 36,000 pounds of Narong Seafood’s shrimp. A recent report by the International Labor Rights Forum and the Warehouse Workers United shows that at Narong Seafood, based in Thailand, underage employees were forced to work the night shift to avoid inspections by Thai Labor Ministry officials, international buyers and auditors.
The inspections themselves were always announced and superficial. The report also claims that workers’ salaries were illegally lowered after a slowdown at the factory, and undocumented foreign workers were charged high fees for employment documents.
Walmart is the largest retailer of shrimp in the U.S., and the U.S. imports 90 percent of shrimp sold in the country. You should break all ties with Narong Seafood and ensure that any Walmart’s supplier that processes shrimp does not use child labor or treat its workers like slaves.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Stacie Morris