Mexican women crab pickers mistreated in Maryland.

A study was released by American University and the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante on Wednesday that documents experiences of Mexican women who have migrated to work as crab pickers in Maryland. Crab pickers are generally women because it is considered “lighter” work. They interviewed 43 women of the approximately 1,000 women that worked with crab companies last year. The findings resemble the human rights abuses of many companies that hire low wage labor from overseas and claim to support them effectively.

They described being charged illegal fees by recruiters in Mexico and enduring substandard working conditions in Maryland.
The women, few of whom spoke English, said they lived in housing with backed-up sewage and no working stove, lacked transportation to buy groceries or seek medical care, were not trained for their jobs or told how their paychecks and taxes were handled, and had a hard time picking enough pounds of crabmeat to make minimum wage.
“They get no formal training, they get cuts and infections, and they are charged fees to participate,” said Jayesh Rathod, an American University law professor who co-wrote the report.

Jack Brooks, president of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, claims that the crab pickers are paid and treated well. Different owners have different stories of what is considered good working conditions, but take “treated well,” with a grain of salt. One seafood store owner said in response to his employees sleeping ten to a room that, “they want to sleep in one room together.” Uh, right. The authors of the report recommend stricter oversight of guest-workers working conditions and better enforcement of rules protecting temporary workers.

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  • feminismforever

    a perfect example of how the oppression of animals and women interrelate. Sad on all accounts.


    It sounds like the crab pickers really really really need a union!!!!! That would provide a whole lot more immediate help for those workers than government regulations, which, typically, are sporadically enforced by state labor departments with few inspectors and very small budgets.

  • sparky17

    This is so terrible. I live in Maryland and I never knew about this. I just ate crabs afew days ago too!

  • joanna

    This is a human trafficking abuse. No union will help and it is more than just “sad.” Americans believe that trafficking occurs in “undeveloped” nations. Migrant worker abuse is sanctioned abuse in America. When our gov. finally acknowledges this evil then our sisters, brothers and children will be freed. I continue to pray that America would finally become informed consumers…and, this goes way beyond “organic.”

  • uberhausfrau

    kinda off-topic. i found a really good “crab” cake recipe that calls for zuccini. the food industry, in general, has some really crappy worker’s rights standards, but it always seems the animal food industry is the worst offender.

  • Michelle J

    I live in Maryland too. How can we all come together in our state and do something about this? I hate to read an article that really upsets me and then do nothing about it. But other then sending an angry letter, I’m feeling at a loss.
    Anyone have any ideas?


    It’s not really “human trafficking” as these women are guest workers with temporary work visas.
    And there actually are a number of unions that organize immigrant workers – including the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the dominant union in the food processing industry.
    I’m not sure what the UFCW (or any other unions) are doing for these workers, but if they are trying to organize these workers, we should support their efforts.