Thai Union Seafood Connected to Forced and Child Labor, Deplorable Working Conditions

by Perry Wheeler

December 14, 2015

Statement by Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar.

Washington, DC — An Associated Press investigation released today found that Thai Union, owner of Chicken of the Sea in the U.S., has again been connected to forced labor and horrific working conditions in Thailand. The investigation, which took place last month, followed trucks transporting shrimp from the Gig Peeling Factory to major Thai exporting companies, and then tracked where the products ended up globally.

The investigation found that migrants, including children, were forced to work for little or no pay peeling shrimp which ended up in the supply chains of U.S. brands including Chicken of the Sea, and on major retailers’ shelves, including Wal-Mart, Kroger and Whole Foods. AP reporters found products tainted by forced labor in supermarkets in all 50 states.

“With each new scandal, so-called global seafood leader Thai Union responds in the narrowest way possible,” said Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar. “The company does just enough to weather the PR storm while continuing to profit off the backs of the migrant workers forced to work throughout its supply chains. These latest allegations are especially disturbing because they suggest Thai Union knew about its forced labor issues and had an employee visiting an implicated factory on a daily basis. Clearly Thai Union cannot continue pleading ignorance to the forced labor in its supply chains. It’s going to take more than the bare minimum action to win customers’ trust back.”

Thai Union, which has already seen its seafood supply chains connected to forced labor in separate New York Times and Associated Press investigations, received shrimp from Gig and a second factory that was raided in May where employees were forced to work long hours with no days off. At that factory, a woman eight months pregnant was forced to miscarry on the floor and continue peeling for four days while hemorrhaging, a toddler was refused medical attention after falling 12 feet, and another pregnant woman who tried to escape was caught and forced to work handcuffed to another worker. Workers noted that a Thai Union employee visited the shed on a daily basis.

“No one wants to buy seafood tainted by forced labor, and we know that the issues reach far beyond just shrimp,” Hocevar continued. “Every single company involved must be held accountable for the hundreds of thousands of people suffering in miserable conditions — from those catching the seafood to the supermarkets selling it.”

“This story casts significant further doubt about the extent to which both Thai Union and the Thai seafood sector as a whole are responding to these very serious issues,” said Hocevar. “The inaction by the entire industry and shiny PR moves are no longer acceptable. It is time for Thai Union and its buyers to audit and clean up every single link in their seafood supply chains — not just the one implicated in the latest of many investigations.”

To read the entire Associated Press investigation, please visit: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/8f64fb25931242a985bc30e3f5a9a0b2/ap-global-supermarkets-selling-shrimp-peeled-slaves

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Contact: Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace USA Media Officer, P: 301-675-8766

Perry Wheeler

By Perry Wheeler

Perry Wheeler is a senior communications specialist at Greenpeace USA.

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