We have been reporting for years about the meatpacking industry, what we call BIG MEAT and BIG CHICKEN, having discovered the great advantages of hiring immigrant and refugee laborers (foreign-born the GAO calls them) who will work for lower wages (this industry once did pay good wages) and complain less than American workers who understand the laws that protect them.
We believe it is this industry and a few other large companies in the food processing industry that are the largest drivers behind the refugee resettlement program and thus the reason that the Republican-led, Chamber of Commerce-dominated, Congress does not initiate reform of the US Refugee Admissions Program.
Should the US State Department and its nine ‘non-profit’ contractors be supplying refugee labor to giant global corporations using taxpayer dollars?
I wonder, do the refugee resettlement agencies that actively place their refugee “clients” in to meat and chicken plants know about all this and turn a blind eye.
I’m thinking specifically of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service that signed contracts recently with JBS Swift and Tyson Foods to help them acquire and train refugee workers. So much for humanitarianism!
(After I began writing this post I found many more stories in other news outlets about the findings, but I had already snipped this one, maybe not the best one, and was too lazy to start over!)
For several years, Oxfam and a coalition of allies and experts have been exposing the dark underbelly of labor conditions in the poultry industry.
Boston, MA – infoZine – Oxfam’s concerns were recently confirmed by the GAO, after it conducted direct interviews with poultry processing workers in five states.*** The central underlying problem is the pervasive climate of fear inside poultry plants; when workers are afraid to report issues, OSHA and other inspection agencies are unable to detect or investigate problems.
Eighteen months after the GAO issued a report confirming that poultry workers face inordinate health and safety hazards and that many of these problems go under-reported, a follow-up investigation calls on all three federal agencies– the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture– to improve ways for workers to communicate issues without fear of retaliation.
“The health and safety problems that workers face in poultry processing plants have been exacerbated in the past year due to a growing climate of fear and oppression in an industry where workers are mostly immigrants, refugees, and people of color,” said Alex Galimberti, Senior Advocacy and Collaborations Advisor for Oxfam America. “Every day, workers experience problems, such as denial of treatment for repetitive motion injuries, lack of access to bathroom breaks, and sexual harassment. Most of the time, they feel unsafe reporting these issues to federal agencies or to top level management.”
By the way there have been lots of stories lately about small and medium-sized towns fighting the placement of new meat or poultry plants in their communities. Many citizens object to the environmental problems and the influx of immigrant/refugee labor drawn to the town bringing with it cultural upheaval. This is a new angle—health and safety problems in the workplace.
***The five states where plants were investigated were: : Arkansas, Delaware, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Virginia.