8May 2015
May 8, 2015

Louisiana crawfish trade in guest workers trap

Louisiana crawfish are nearing its peak season, however due to a shortage of migrants that are ready to peel them, the industry is experiencing some loss, mainly caused by foreign guest workers and Chinese imports.

This shortfall of workers, which is estimated to cost Louisiana up to $50 million due to cutting more than half of its frozen crawfish output. Frank Randol, who runs Lafayette plant, states that, “we finally stabilized our industry…and now this chops the legs out from under us.”

Boiled crawfish are loved spring and summertime and are part of many peoples diets in Louisiana, however the labor shortages are not just limited locally, U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski recently stated her crab industry was up to 40 per cent short on temporary workers.

Employers are demanded to prove by the Labor Department that they pay fair wages to its workers and American job seekers must return home after they finish working their fixed-term job.  Kevin Dartez owns a peeling facility, which peels and sells both crab and crawfish. He states that he will take any guest labor which means more loses. “The crawfish season is screwed,” he said. “The crabs aren’t getting peeled either.”

Louisiana’s crawfish processors come under heavy criticism, as a business that relies on H-2B laborers, they exploit a generally large and powerless workforce. Some, like Jacob Horwitz, a labor organizer with the New Orleans-based National Guest worker Alliance believes that, “this is largely a crisis they’ve brought on themselves.”

Homeland Security departments this week and jointly unveiling new H-2B rules favouring workers on protections and pay. With Louisiana however, processors are buying fewer crawfish leaving fishermen and farmers little choice but to leave them in murky and muddy waters.

Mayor of Henderson in St Martin Parish, Sherbin Collete, describes this labor shortage as potentially moulding into one of the worst crisis the industry has ever faced.  She explains, “This is almost as critical as a hurricane coming to hit us.”