Undocumented Workers in Louisiana’s Bayous Organize to Take on Seafood Industry

Guestworkers peeling crawfish at Walmart supplier C.J.'s Seafood, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. (WBUR)

Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk filed a dispatch from Lafayette, Louisiana looking at how undocumented workers in the seafood industry are organizing to push back:

Now seafood workers in Louisiana are beginning to lose that fear as they organize under the banner of the Seafood Workers Alliance. “The company has all the power, but with organizing, we are going to attack their power,” said Jesus Andres, president of the Seafood Workers Alliance.

At a recent meeting of workers, Andres quickly slathered a thick coat of mayonnaise on a tortilla with fried shrimp and habanero sauce as he rushed to take his seat at the head of a table where three dozen seafood worker gathered in the community room of the Lafayette public library.

All of a sudden, 34-year-old Danilo Balladares, an organizer with the Seafood Workers Alliance, stood in front of the room and began to clap. Soon, the rest of the room, black, white and brown alike, joined in the clapping. Gradually the clap got louder and more upbeat as cries of “rrrrrr” broke out. Balladares stopped the clapping and called the meeting to attention.

“All the people here could be fired,” said Balladares, pointing to Andres and the leaders of Seafood Workers Alliance seated at the front of the room. “They could be fired and sent back to their country if their employer knew they were here.”

Formed in 2017 as an offshoot of organizing being done by the National Guestworker Alliance and the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice the Seafood Workers Alliance has hundreds of members in 15 different plants throughout Louisiana.

For more, go to the Guardian to read the full dispatch from Lafayette, Louisiana. 


About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter who covered everything from Lula & the Brazilian labor movement to major league baseball. He spent years covering union organizing in the South for The Guardian and was labeled by the New York Times as an "abrasive gadfly" for exposing within the labor movement. Raised in a UE union family in Pittsburgh, Elk was illegally for union organizing at Politico in 2015 and used his NLRB settlement to start the crowd-funded Payday Report. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and is fluent in both Pittsburghese and Portuguese, which he learned when attending journalism school at PUC-Rio de Janerio. Email: [email protected]

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