Crabmeat makes for delicious sushi rolls and juicy crab cakes, but before you head to your local seafood restaurant, take a look at American University's report on the exploitation of migrant women in the Maryland crab industry.
The report is based on interviews with 40 migrant workers from Mexico who were brought to the States through the H-2B visa program.
This program allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers for temporary nonagricultural jobs.
The women interviewed claimed they experienced a different job than what was originally promised.
"Low wages, erratic work hours, and paycheck deductions were the norm," and some workers reported that homes rented from employers had "constant sewage back-ups and no working stove."
Without proper training, workers say they experienced cuts and infections from picking crabmeat and had to pay illegal fees to recruiters in Mexico.
Jack Brooks, president of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, says in response to the report, "My observation in going down there is that the workers are happy, the housing is adequate, and the people pay their employees' transportation and recruiting fees."
Reported by Bloomberg Business Week:
Bill Wright, a spokesman for the federal Homeland Security Department's Citizenship and Immigration Services, issued a statement Wednesday saying department officials have not read the report, but the program is run professionally and fairly, and contains protections for workers.
The migrant workers and their advocates behind the report disagree.
The report calls for drastic changes including extending Maryland's minimum wage and overtime protections to crab pickers and other seafood workers.
It also calls for restructuring visas so workers are not tied exclusively to one employer, affording workers the option to leave abusive working conditions and still benefit from employment in the U.S.
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