Tag Archives: migrants

Did slaves peel your frozen shrimp? A guide to the issue and what to do

Enslaved migrant workers and children are ripping the heads, tails, shells and guts off shrimp at processing factories in Thailand, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.

AP journalists followed and filmed trucks loaded with freshly peeled shrimp going from one peeling shed to major Thai exporting companies. Then, using U.S. customs records and Thai industry reports, they tracked it globally. They also traced similar connections from another factory raided six months earlier, and interviewed more than two dozen workers from both sites.

U.S. customs records show the farmed shrimp made its way into the supply chains of major U.S. food stores and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Target, Dollar General and Petco, along with restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden. AP reporters in all 50 states went shopping and found related brands in more than 150 stores across America.

The businesses that responded condemned the practices that lead to labor abuse, and many said they were launching investigations.

Q: How do I know if my shrimp or other seafood is tainted by labor abuses?

A: That’s a big part of the problem. Most companies do not make their supply chains public. And even if they did, there are many places for abuses to occur that are not documented or take place far from any type of scrutiny. For example, slaves have been forced to work on boats catching trash fish used for feed at shrimp farms, and migrants have been brought across borders illegally and taken straight to shrimp sheds where they are locked inside and forced to peel. Fishing boats are going farther and farther from shore, sometimes not docking for months or years at a time, creating floating prisons.

Q: What shrimp brands and companies did the AP find linked to tainted supply chains in its investigation?

A: Cape Gourmet; Certifresh; Chef’s Net; Chicken of the Sea; Chico; CoCo; Darden (owner of Olive Garden Italian Kitchen, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze Island Grille, Seasons 52 Fresh Grill, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood and Yard House); Delicasea; Fancy Feast cat food; Farm Best; Fisherman’s Wharf; Winn-Dixie; Fishmarket; Great American; Great Atlantic; Great Catch; Harbor Banks; KPF; Market Basket; Master Catch; Neptune; Portico; Publix; Red Lobster; Royal Tiger; Royal White; Sea Best; Sea Queen; Stater Bros.; Supreme Choice; Tastee Choice; Wal-Mart; Waterfront Bistro; Wellness canned cat food; Whole Catch; Wholey; Xcellent.

Q: AP reporters visited supermarkets chosen at random in all 50 states. Where did they find shrimp linked to tainted supply chains in its investigation?

A: Acme Markets; Albertsons; Aldi; Bi-Lo; Carrs-Safeway; Cash Wise; Crest Foods; Cub Foods; D’Agostino Supermarket; Dan’s Supermarket; Dollar General; Edwards Food Giant; Family Dollar; Foodland; Fred Meyer; Giant Eagle; Harris-Teeter; H-E-B; Hy-Vee; Jerry’s Foods; Jewel-Osco; Jons International Marketplace; Kroger; Lowes Foods; Mariano’s; Market Basket; Marsh Supermarkets; Martin’s Super Markets; McDade’s Market; Pavilions; Petco; Piggly Wiggly; Price Chopper; Publix; Ralphs; Randall’s Food Market; Redner’s Warehouse Markets; Russ’s Market; Safeway; Save Mart; Schnucks; Shaws; ShopRite; Smart & Final; Sprouts Farmers Market; Stater Bros.; Stop & Shop; Sunshine Foods; Target; Van’s Thriftway; Vons; Wal-Mart; Whole Foods; Winn-Dixie.

Q: Thailand has been in the news a lot lately with problems linked to human trafficking in its seafood industry. Why is this still an issue?

A: Thailand is one of the world’s biggest seafood exporters, and relies heavily on migrant workers from poor neighboring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. These laborers often are misled by brokers in their home countries and illegally brought to Thailand with promises of good-paying jobs. They are then sold onto fishing boats or put into seafood processing plants where they become trapped and forced to work long hours for little or no money. Thailand has repeatedly vowed to crack down on the abuses. It has created new laws and is helping to register undocumented workers, but arrests and prosecutions are still rare.

Q: What are buyers and governments doing to try to stop slave-tainted seafood from reaching their countries?

A: The U.S. State Department has blacklisted Thailand for the past two years for its dismal human rights record, placing it among the world’s worst offenders such as North Korea and Syria. However, it has not issued sanctions. The European Union put out a “yellow card” warning earlier this year that tripled seafood import tariffs, and is expected to decide next month whether to impose an outright ban on products. Companies such as Nestle have vowed to force change after conducting their own audits and finding that their Thai suppliers were abusing and enslaving workers. Others are working with rights groups to monitor their supply chains and ensure laborers are treated fairly and humanely.

Sanders details ‘Family First’ plan for immigration reform

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders this week introduced a plan to reform the nation’s immigration system. The U.S. senator’s plan puts families first, focuses on common sense reforms to build the middle class and embraces our nation’s diversity, according to a news release from his campaign.

“As we gather with our loved ones to give thanks, we should reflect on the fact that not all families will be so lucky,” Sanders said. “Millions of families are torn apart by our broken immigration policies. We cannot forget about the aspiring Americans who continue to live in the shadows. As the son of an immigrant, I can tell you that their story – my story, your story, our story – is the story of America: the story of hardworking families coming to the United States to create a brighter future for their kids We have an obligation to enact policies that unite families, not tear them apart.”

If elected, Sanders would:

• Dismantle inhumane deportation programs and private detention centers.

• Offer humane treatment and asylum to victims of domestic violence and minors fleeing from dangerous circumstances in Latin America.

• End policies that discriminate against women and ensure that mothers and wives who come into the United States with their families have the same right to work as their partners.

• Pave the way for a swift legislative path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.

• Close loopholes that allow federal agencies to use racial and ethnic profiling at the border.

• Ensure our border remains secure and protects local communities.

• Make it easier for immigrants to access the judicial system.

• Increase oversight of key Department of Homeland Security agencies to guard against waste, fraud and abuse.

Sanders pledged to make immigration a top priority of his administration, even if Congress refuses to act. He would take executive action to allow all undocumented people who have been in the United States for at least five years to stay in the country without fear of being deported.

Under Sanders’ plan, close to 9 million aspiring Americans would be able to apply to stay in the United States.

“As president, I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship and is grounded in civil, humane and economic rights. But let me be clear: I will not stand idly by waiting around for a dysfunctional Congress to act. Instead, during the first 100 days of my administration I will take extensive action to accomplish what Congress has failed to do and to build upon President Obama’s executive orders.”

200,000 urge EPA to strengthen protections for farmworkers

Some 200,000 people have called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen its Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, which is the only federal standard designed to protect the nation’s more than 2 million farmworkers from pesticide exposure.

“Farmworkers face dangerous exposure to poisons over the course of their working life,” said Eve Gartner, an attorney for Earthjustice, a public interest law firm. “While most Americans benefit from broad workplace protections, farmworkers are not protected by the same health and safety standards.”

Earthjustice, Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Migrant Clinicians Network, Pesticide Action Network North America, United Farm Workers and CREDO collected more than 200,000 signatures on petitions.

“The nation’s 2 million farmworkers deserve the level of workplace protections provided to other workers,” added Margaret Reeves, a senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network. “Protections for workers from pesticide exposure also mean protections for farmworker children and families.”

The petitioners and grassroots groups are calling on the EPA to change the proposed standard to include:

• Parity with safety rules provided to workers in non-agricultural industries.

• Improved safety training annually and starting before workers enter treated fields.

• Easily accessible information about pesticides used on the farm and in nurseries.

• No children under 18 years of age allowed to handle hazardous pesticides.

• Strict adherence to no-entry rules for areas recently treated with pesticides.

• Improved protections and safety monitoring for pesticide handlers.

Elvia Vasquez of Oxnard, California, worked in the fields of Southern California picking strawberries, lettuce and broccoli for nearly a decade. “I would get rashes and headaches when forced to enter the strawberry fields that had been sprayed with pesticides only hours before,” said Vasquez, who now works with Organizacion en California de Lideres Campesinas, Inc. to educate farmworkers on the dangers of pesticide exposure.

Farmworker advocates say millions are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals without adequate safeguards to protect their health and the EPA must at least take basic steps to protect them.

The government has been hearing from workers and advocates for more than a decade— the WPS was first adopted in 1995 and has been awaiting revision since 2000. The EPA is expected to issue a finalized rule by early 2015, after closing its public comment period on Aug. 18.

Premiere: Chavez biopic shown to 1,000 farm workers in California

In California’s fertile Central Valley, immigrant workers pick produce sold worldwide. They’re mostly Spanish speakers who work long hours in the dirt and sun — not your typical crowd for a Hollywood movie premiere.

But this week, they were the guests of honor at a special screening of “Cesar Chavez,” the new biopic opening today (March 28). More than 1,000 farm workers sat in folding chairs outside the union hall where the first contracts were signed in 1970 between those who owned the fields and those who worked them. An inflatable movie screen stood upfront. The spirit of Cesar Chavez was everywhere.

Directed by Mexico’s Diego Luna, “Cesar Chavez” follows the late civil rights leader from his first efforts to organize farm workers in 1962 to that historic 1970 signing. Before the contract, laborers worked the fields for pennies an hour and without breaks, bathrooms or shade. The union Chavez founded with fellow activist Dolores Huerta became the United Farm Workers, which continues to seek better wages and working conditions for field laborers two decades after Chavez’s death in 1993.

On March 25, chartered buses brought screening guests from six Central California counties to The Forty Acres in Delano, Calif., the union’s original headquarters, now a National Historic Landmark. Some were veterans of the strikes and boycotts Chavez led in the 1960s; others struggle today to organize under conditions not unlike those he fought against. Many held red flags and wore T-shirts with the United Farm Workers logo and famous motto, “Si se puede!”

“This film is about you. It’s about the people who feed this country,” Luna told the crowd in Spanish. “It celebrates all those who today continue fighting.”

The Lionsgate release stars Michael Peña as Chavez, America Ferrera as his wife, Helen, and Rosario Dawson as Huerta. John Malkovich, also a producer of the film, plays a villain grape grower.

The Cesar Chavez Foundation, United Farm Workers and the studio sponsored the outdoor screening, which also included a barbecue dinner for all 1,200 guests. The special premiere, dubbed in Spanish for the occasion, concluded a pre-release promotional tour that stopped at the White House last week for a screening with President Obama, who adopted the union’s motto – translated, Yes, we can! – for his 2008 presidential campaign.

For Paul F. Chavez, one of Cesar Chavez’s eight children and head of his namesake foundation, the screening for farm workers was the most significant of all.

“It was good to hear the President’s comments … about the inspiration he’s taken from my father’s life. Then we were in Hollywood with a red carpet event, and that’s fun with all the movie stars. But this is really meaningful,” Paul Chavez said. “To come back where the work began, where so much history happened, then to be with people that work on a daily basis to put food on our table, it’s heartwarming.”

The Forty Acres is about 2 miles from where Cesar Chavez began his movement: The house where he lived with his family, the Filipino Hall where he announced his first fast, Delano High School where the farmworkers got support from Sen. Robert Kennedy, and the intersection where police tried to stop Chavez and 75 other strikers on their 250-mile march to Sacramento in 1966.

Josefina Flores, who lives in the foundation’s senior housing complex nearby, was there that day. At 84, she’s still involved with the union and hopes the biopic will educate and inspire.

“When they see how we suffered during that time, people can understand,” she said in Spanish. “And with the strikes and boycotts, they’ll see how they ought to organize as well to continue the pursuit of better (treatment)… It’s about respect and dignity for us and our children.”

Growers still intimidate immigrant farm workers, threatening to withhold pay if they don’t work faster, said 29-year-old Guadalupe Martinez, who works on a grape farm where the fight for contract representation has continued for more than a year. The gathering of workers and union members at the screening gave her hope.

“Here you can see the legacy Chavez left us,” she said in Spanish. “You can see there’s strength among us farm workers.”

Unfortunately, they weren’t able to see the end of the film that night. A sudden rainstorm swept through the drought-parched region, quenching thirsty crops but ending the outdoor screening early.

Boasting more than 50,000 members at its height in the 1970s, UFW represents about 4,500 workers today. Meanwhile, the nonprofit Cesar Chavez Foundation builds and manages affordable housing for farm workers and seniors, provides educational services for young people and runs a nine-station Spanish-language radio network.

Paul Chavez said he hopes the film reminds farm workers their work is important and resonates with others who “care about justice and care about the future.”

“The fact is my father wasn’t 6-foot-2. He didn’t use big, fancy words. He didn’t come from a fancy, rich family. He never owned a car, never owned a house. He was a man that looks like a lot of people in this crowd tonight,” he said. “If people can see that a person like Cesar Chavez was able to make a difference, then our hope is that they’ll take a look at themselves and say, `Maybe there’s a little Cesar Chavez in me.’ And if that happens, then I think the movie’s been a big success.”

On the Web …


Farmworkers welcome planned changes to protection standards

Farmworkers welcomed an announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it will soon propose revisions to the Worker Protection Standard, which provides minimal workplace protections against pesticide exposures for farmworkers.

A coalition of farmworker, public health and other nonprofit organizations has long urged the EPA to include stronger protections for farmworkers. More than 20 years has passed since the rules were updated and the EPA has admitted for more than a decade that the standards are inadequate.

Following a review by the federal Office of Management and Budget, advocates expect the EPA will publish the proposed rule for public comment in the next few weeks. The farmworkers want to see updated rules for safety training requirements, safety precautions limiting farmworkers’ contact with pesticides and mechanisms to improve enforcement of workplace protections.

An estimated 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops annually in the United States with the nation’s 1 million to 2 million farmworkers facing the highest threat from the health impacts of the chemicals.

The federal government estimates there are 10,000–20,000 acute pesticide poisonings among workers in the agricultural industry annually. Short-term effects of pesticide exposures include stinging eyes, rashes, blisters, nausea, headaches, respiratory problems and even death.

Long-term exposure can increase the risk of serious chronic health problems such as cancer, birth defects, neurological impairments and Parkinson’s disease for farmworkers, their families and their children.

A petition for reform was filed by Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice in November 2011 on behalf of United Farm Workers, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, The Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc., PCUN/Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United, Farm Worker Pesticide Project, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and the Pesticide Action Network North America.

“While most Americans benefit from broad workplace protections, farmworkers are fundamentally disadvantaged and face dangerous exposure to poisons over the course of their working life,” said Eve Gartner, attorney for Earthjustice. “We urge the EPA to offer farmworkers a more protective safeguard.”

“Each year pesticide exposure poisons tens of thousands of farmworkers and their families, leading to injury, illness, and death,” said Virginia Ruiz, director of occupational and environmental health at Farmworker Justice. “We applaud the administration for taking this step to help protect the men, women and children who labor to put food on our tables. We hope that the EPA’s revised Worker Protection Standard will include important safeguards for farmworkers and strengthen their right to a safe workplace.”