Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) has suspended one of its seafood suppliers amid allegations that the company, CJ's Seafood of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, violated several federal labor laws.
The retailing giant launched an investigation of CJ's Seafood following a report published by labor rights group the Worker Rights Consortium that said the crawfish processor abused migrant workers, forced them to work 24 hour shifts and used threats to prevent them from complaining to authorities.
Wal-Mart found that CJ's Seafood had violated some of its supplier standards, including record-keeping violations and wage requirements, but its investigation was not yet complete.
The seafood company, which employs 50 to 60 mostly migrant workers, is under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Labor.
"We uncovered violations of some of our supplier standards and we also know that OSHA and DOL are also conducting investigations so we have suspended CJ's Seafood as a supplier pending the outcome of the investigations," said Wal-Mart spokesman Lorenzo Lopez.
"Once the investigation is completed, we will take the appropriate steps including permanently dropping CJ's Seafood as a supplier if the allegations of forced labor are true," he said.
Several more of Wal-Mart's suppliers were guilty of similar labor violations, said Saket Soni, director of the National Guestworker Alliance, a migrant worker advocacy group that requested the Worker Rights Consortium's investigation.
"The workers have exposed forced labor at CJ's and they have been backed up by independent investigators ... This is just the tip of the iceberg and that's why we want Wal-Mart to adopt national standards for civil and labor rights," he said.
Wal-Mart disagreed with the allegations.
"Wal-Mart works with about 60,000 suppliers in the U.S. and we have rigorous standards in place that our suppliers are required to follow, including compliance with all labor standards," Lopez said.
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; editing by Mohammad Zargham)