Últimas noticias

Breaking Barriers: The womens movement in the Maryland crab industry

Maryland is known for many things, but one its  most popular symbols is the Maryland crab, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland was once known as the seafood capital of the world. What’s less thought about is the large number of people that are behind the delicious crab cakes we eat. Many of the faces of the seafood and crab industry are women, mostly women of color. Currently, crab workers in Maryland are mostly migrant women, many of whom are Mexican, and temporarily live and work with H-2B visas which the government provides to businesses through a lottery system. ,

Even before this, women have been on the forefront of the crab industry in Maryland. Maryland’s eastern shore is surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and rivers and ponds, allowing the seafood industry to have an important economic impact  on  nearby communities. 

Industry work happens under tough conditions, and it has always been that way. In 1938, crab pickers went on strike to protest that packing houses were cutting their wages from 35 cents a pound to 25 cents a pound, therefore only allowing workers to make on average $1.50 a week. After the announcement of the wage cuts, on April 4th, 1938, crab pickers from many packinghouses walked out of their jobs in protest. It is estimated that around 600 women, mostly Black women, participated in this strike. Not only did these women go on strike, but they also organized frequently, meeting in their local churches and using  resources such as the Congress of Industria organization (CIO) unions. There was some pushback by the packinghouses, watermen, and farmers with the use of violent threats and racial intimidation. Mobs formed and would gather in Back neighborhoods to try to find the strike organizers and  intimidate them out of the strike, they would even use violent threats to force union organizers out of towns as well. Even through all the hardship, these women crab pickers stood strong and won the strike. By May 9th 1938, most packinghouses gave in and agreed to restore the wage to 35 cents per pound . 

Fighting back when your rights are not being upheld is important. You do not have to do it alone - there is power in numbers and there are resources like Centro De Los Derechos Del Migrante are here to be a resource and support. There were 3 prior strikes before the crab worker strike of 1938 that were unsuccessful, but these 600 women did not let that stop them from fighting for their right to a fair  wage!

Today, from the Centro De Los Derechos Del Migrante we want to recognize the struggle and courage of all working people who defend their rights, especially those migrants who, despite the obstacles that exist in a racist and discriminatory system, seek to organize and demand better working and living conditions. We will continue to accompany you on your way defending your labor rights!