While prices for our catch drop and fuel prices skyrocket, seafood prices at restaurants, grocery stores and other retailers  increase.  Where do  most of the increased profits go?  To big oil and the big middle men processors.

Add in the unjust Katrina and BP “disaster recovery”, and local corruption, conditions have become much worse for the rank & file fisher, seafood workers, and mom & pop processors — See: Greene_County_Democrat_Op-ed_by_members of Alabama Fisher_Coop_Steering_Committee,_April_20,_2011[2]

Minh Van Le, co-founder of Alabama Multi-Cultural Fisher and Seafood Worker-Owned Coop summed it up in an interview when the nation’s oldest public radio station, KPFA in Berkley California, sent one of its finest journalists to Bayou La Batre  : “with the prices we are forced to accept we are now like slaves, but our coop can free us…”

Minh’s and other coop members interview was reviewed on Bridge the Gulf, a blog that has received the Melissa Harris-Perry “Foot Soldier Award”:

Listen: Alabama fishermen featured on radio show” (posted by Bridge The GulfJan 12 2012)

siriporn hall

              Photo of Siriporn Hall from Asian Pacific Americans for Progress.

Alabama fisherfolk and community organizers were recently featured on the Apex Express, a radio show by and about Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Hear from Siriporn Hall, Minh Van Le, and Zack Carter about the state of the fishing industry in Coden and Bayou La Batre, “the seafood capital of Alabama.”

Listen to the show on Apex Express’s website.  The segment on Alabama comes at 30 minutes into the show.  They also give a nice shout out to Bridge The Gulf Project!

Alabama Multi-Cultural Fisher and Seafood Worker Cooperative Co-Operative is working to establish a socially and environmentally just seafood market where fishers can find just prices for their catch and the public can do its part to keep our Gulf Coast’s most reliable stewards strong and resilient.

Our mission is to also establish our own fisher and seafood worker-owned processing shop — in the words of seafood worker Phyliss Johnson at a Labor Notes Conference in Chicago just after losing her mother  (see background article below We Have Lost One of Our Own ) : “…when we own our shop, rotate the work, give folks a chance to learn other jobs, and share the profits equally, then it won’t just be a job, it will be dignified work and could serve as a model for true recovery from the Katrina and BP Disasters.

To pre-order our fresh off the boat shrimp, crabs, or fish contact write, email, or call:     

P.O. Box 94 Coden, Alabama 36523 


tel. 334 224-3983


photo of Leevones Dubose and Captain Sid SchwartzWell known Mobile Community Activist Levones Fisher (formerly Dubose) with Captain Sidney Schwartz at his boat on Dog River Docks, Mobile.

“It is time that commercial fishers band together to get a fair price for our catch, and to unite with local seafood workers so we can rebuild our communities and continue our heritage as the natural stewards of Alabama’s Gulf Coast and protect it for all of us”

(Captain Sidney Schwartz, Mobile/Dog River docks, Co-founder Alabama Multi-Cultural Fisher and Seafood Worker-Owned Cooperative)

)Leevones and her son (2)Leevones Fisher's son comes by after work to buy some of our coop's shrimp, 6-21-13

Ms. Fisher’s son came by after work and bought some of Captain Sidney’s shrimp fresh off his boat (photos by Zack Carter, May 2013).

I am happy that the shrimp sample Dr. Subra analyzed from my boat on July 10, 2011 showed the hydrocarbons well below the level of concern by the well respected environmental group National Resource Defense Council (NRDC). But we need more testing…. Most importantly BP should be told to finish the clean up – from the tar balls on Dauphin Island to the tar mats on the bottom. Imported shrimp should also be scrutinized with NRDC standards. ” (Captain Sidney Schwartz, who brought shrimp to 400 activists at Federation of Southern Cooperatives Annual Dinner August 2012, and this statement posted here: https://alafishcoop.wordpress.com/2013/08/)


Our Fishers Courageously Volunteer Their Seafood to Be Tested at Levels of Concern Hundreds of Times More Stringent than FDA by Working With Gulf Coast Health Alliance: Health Risks Related to the Macondo [BP] Spill (GC-HARMS):


GC-HARMS update September 2013

 a collaborative response to characterizing environmental health risks and building community resiliency after the Deep Water Horizon disaster in the northern Gulf of Mexico…GC-HARMS is a network of community and university partners focused on the health and resiliency impacts of the 2010 Macondo oil spill.  
The overarching purpose of GC-HARMS is to: “characterize and communicate the human health risks of exposure to potentially hazardous food-borne petrogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH)Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH)…”   


(L to R: Barbara Robbins, Seafood Worker / Board Member and Co-Founder: Alabama Fisheries Cooperative; John Sullivan, UTMB / GC-HARMS CODC staff; Wilma Subra, GC-HARMS Consortium Steering Committee Community Liaison, Training Coordinator / Regional Scientific Advisor with Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN); Zack Carter, Organizer: Alabama Fisheries Cooperative / GC-HARMS Community Hub Coordinator).

Prior to the official kick off and actual funding of the GC-HARMS project, scientists from UTMB, fishermen from the Alabama Fisheries Cooperative, members of South Bay Communities Alliance and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network participated in a sampling training to test the practicality of the protocols and empower community fishermen to actively participate in the process.

Wilma Subra (LEAN) developed the project sampling protocols – in accord with EPA standards – and personally instructed and supervised the sampling crew on its pilot run in Mobile Bay.  Shrimp samples were collected, and a subsequent crabbing expedition that same day provided samples of blue crab.  These samples were prepared for shipping, frozen solid and sent off for laboratory analysis the next morning.  When lab results came back, these data were presented to the community, and the groups involved agreed that the on-board sampling protocols worked smoothly and were adaptable to various site-specific situations throughout the tri-state area targeted for sampling.

In response to preliminary results from that “shakedown cruise,” Captain Sidney Schwartz, life-long Alabama shrimper, captain of the sampling vessel and a co-founder of the Alabama Fisheries Cooperative, said:

“I am happy that the shrimp sample Dr. Subra analyzed from my boat showed the hydrocarbons to be negligible — nearly 30 times lower than the FDA’s level of concern, even below the level of concern for children and pregnant women established by the environmental group National Resource Defense Council (NRDC). But we need more testing.” 


Tribute to an elder and background information on our coop’s fight for fair housing:

We Have Lost One of Our Own, Stella Mae Smith



An Inspiring Community Leader from Bayou La Batre’s Historic African American Community PassesBy Zack Carter. I am sad to report that one of our inspiring community elders, Stella Mae Smith of Snows Quarter, Bayou La Batre, Alabama has died. She suffered a heart attack at her home. Her funeral services will be held at Noon today, Saturday, May 12, at Bayou La Batre’s Greater New Hope Baptist Church, 8420 E. Alba Street.

Ms. Smith’s fighting spirit was handed down to her daughter, Phyllis Johnson, a leading member of a Gulf Coast multi-cultural fisher and seafood worker-owned cooperative – Alabama Fisheries Cooperative, Inc. One month after Katrina, Phyllis, a single mom raising two children on the meager wages paid to custodians, successfully stood in protest between her home and a bulldozer sent by the local mayor to tear down her “irreparably damaged” house.

Stella Mae Smith knew not go to Bayou La Batre’s City Hall asking for rebuilding assistance: she went there and demanded it as her human right. And through sheer forcefulness and will power she got a rebuilt home!

Stella Mae and Phyllis are both pictured below in front of one of the 300-plus homes that were repaired or rebuilt in south Mobile County because of the grassroots advocacy and determined unity of all cultures, races, and creeds in “The Bayou”. This victory was led by the grass roots organization, South Bay Communities Alliance — a co-founder of Alabama Fisheries Coop, along with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.
south bay katrina tourPictured left to right: Earl Presley; Stella Mae Smith; Paul Nelson, Zack Carter, Becky Barbour, Ernest Montgomery, Gertrude Robbins, Neece Presley, Donna Hunt, Danielle McKenzie, Phyllis Johnson, Barbara-Jean Robbins, Michael Robbins, Rosie Robbins. (Photo by Stephanie Bosarge, 8/29/09). [From South Bay Communities Alliance’s Katrina 4th Anniversary tour;  Becky Barbour, Ernest Montgomery, and Stella Mae Smith have all died since this photo was taken.]

Stella Mae and Phyliss were also protesting on behalf of the 700 families who qualified for federal rebuilding funds in Mobile County but never received it (Read more: http://www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/blogs/cars-transportation/south-bay-community-alliance-solar)

Katrina displaced the largest number of people of any single disaster in our nation’s history: more than 1,000,000 people, including half of the African-American population of New Orleans. The largest number of those made homeless, and the 2,000 who perished, were mostly in Mississippi and Louisiana, however: “The hurricane-damaged communities in Alabama are the most overlooked areas by the U.S. Government and are not mentioned in the U.S. Government‘s reports to the UN Human Rights Committee… Coden has never seen so many people pass away in such a short time… trying to survive in the [formaldehyde emitting] FEMA campers, and hoping to see their homes rebuilt.”
(From a April 16, 2010 report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council by Advocates for Environmental Human Rights and The Gulf States Human Rights Working Group – download here.)

A few days after this report was submitted to the United Nations, BP’s well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP’s Oil and Dispersant Heaped On Top of Inhuman Katrina “Recovery Policies”

One of Alabama’s Katrina victims pictured above with Stella Mae Smith is Becky Barbour. A multi-cultural roving press conference tour, the South Bay Communities Alliance’s Katrina 4th Anniversary tour, began that day at Becky’s FEMA camper. She was a widow and disabled subsistence fisher, yet Bayou La Batre Mayor Stan Wright demanded she vacate her camper, or face fine and imprisonment. He wanted to push her into his federally funded “Safe Harbor housing development”. (See National Public Radio’s Morning Edition).

A solidarity campaign — including Becky’s own testimony in New Orleans before a United Nation’s team investigating forced evictions of Katrina survivors – kept her from being thrown off her land. Becky was able to keep the vow she made to her husband Tommy — a long time labor leader among local oyster catchers — to never leave their home of 36 years next to the Bayou. Sadly, we were not able to raise donations quickly enough to build a Katrina Cottage for her. Becky Barbour, a subsistence fisher, died a few weeks after the BP oil rolled into the bay and bayous of her home town.

Meanwhile many of the Katrina survivors who accepted relocation to “Safe Harbor” are once again facing homelessness today:

“It’s uncanny timing. On September 30th 2011, a federal grand jury indicted Stan Wright, the Mayor of Bayou La Batre, Alabama, for stealing from a housing development built for Hurricane Katrina survivors. The very next day, October 1st, residents of that same development faced a rent hike that is forcing many of them to move out,” wrote Ada McMahon on Bridge the Gulf.

In September 2009, when I first met Phyllis Johnson, she and her two children were still living in a home with half a wall missing, invaded with mold. Fortuitously a bus load of Katrina citizen advocates were being organized to do some citizen lobbying in D.C. Phyllis, Barbara Robbins, Rossie Robbins, all from Snows Quarters, made the 36-hour round trip. We were able to schedule a meeting at the White House in Speaker Pelosi’s office. All showed photographs of their Katrina damaged homes and spoke forcefully. A few days after we returned to Alabama, a non-profit administering the Obama administration’s stimulus funds reversed its rejection of Phyllis Johnson’s application, and despite the Mayor’s last ditch objection to issuing a building permit, her home was finally rebuilt.

However, Barbara Robbins’ mother, Rossie Robbins, and hundreds of others in south Mobile County still live in homes damaged or destroyed by Katrina.

Phyliss Johnson’s Courage Receives Rousing Applause from 1,500 Gathered in Chicago

Grieving hard for her mother, Phyliss Johnson kept her obligation last week and braved a 40-hour round trip train ride from New Orleans to Chicago to participate at the 2012 Labor Notes Conference. (We plan to give Bridge the Gulf a full report of this inspiring conference.)

When a plenary of some 1,500 dedicated trade unionists and Occupy leaders heard how Phyllis turned around the bulldozer sent to raze her home, they greeted her with thunderous applause!

Our panel delegation — Phyllis Johnson, Barbara Robbins, and myself — dedicated our two panel presentations and our statement in memory of Stella Mae Smith.

Stella Mae Smith and Phlyllis Johnson’s audacity are still vitally needed today for those struggling with the unconscionable Katrina and BP policies of “disaster capitalism”.  One proven alternative is democratic cooperative economics, its mission is illustrated in Phyllis Johnson’s testimonial and tribute to her mother, and distributed to activists in Chicago this week.

“I have shucked oysters and picked crabs, for much of my working life — I think it’s one of the hardest jobs that exist. But when we own our shop, rotate the work, give folks a chance to learn other jobs, and share the profits equally, then it won’t just be a job, it will be dignified work and could serve as a model for true recovery from the Katrina and BP Disasters. We are fighting for our jobs and for our homes. We are fighting disaster recovery policies that only benefit the wealthy and threaten to displace fishers and seafood workers. My mother taught me to never back down. When the mayor’s bulldozer came to tear down my house, I stood between it and my home, and it was the bulldozer that backed down. With community solidarity my home was finally rebuilt. Mother died this week, but she would want me to be here today [ at Labor Notes Chicago Conference 2012] and tell you about our community’s struggle for economic & social  justice — it is a struggle for all working people in our country. SOLIDARITY FOREVER!”

About me [author of this article]: I spent 15 years as a union organizer and rep, including 10 yrs. at AL Dry Dock in Mobile where I also worked as a machinist while serving in various elected positions of Shipbuilders Local 18. I also led our union in social issues, e.g. we demanded the local authorities charge all the KKK members involved in the lynching of Michael Donald. When AL Dry Dock shut down and raided our pension, Labor Notes helped us win nation-wide solidarity. I worked 8 years as a community organizer for Alabama Arise, and since August 2006 I helped South Bay Communities Alliance mount a grassroots nationally recognized campaign demanding human rights for Katrina and BP survivors.  Sponsored by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, I have served the past two years [now 4 as of October 2014, ZC] as the Organizer for Alabama Fisheries Cooperative [ now proudly named Alabama Muti-Cultural and Seafood Worker-Owned Cooperative]. The hardest and most rewarding job I have experienced was teaching high school — for 3 years in Macon County, AL. When you meet a teacher thank and hug her or him.








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