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Meat Packers

Meatpacking Workers Say Tyson Foods Makes Them Fight To See The Doctor

The open gash on his right arm oozed blood in a crimson arc, like a neat lipstick smear. It dripped down fast, breaking out into rivulets, so he pushed his arm away from his body. The blood settled in a pool on the floor. Andre Ngute sustained this painful injury in March 2022 at a Tyson Foods meatpacking plant in the tiny rural town of Columbus Junction, Iowa (population 2,132). He had been working elbow-to-elbow on the kill floor wielding sharp knives when one slipped and sliced him. (Ngute requested to use a pseudonym because he fears retaliation.) Nurses in Tyson’s on-site infirmary wrapped his arm in brightly colored bandages.

Can Iowa Meatpacking Workers Take On Tyson?

Gloria Ortiz’s parents spotted a sign one day looming over the fields of strawberries in California’s Central Coast. It was announcing $11-an-hour wages for meatpacking in Iowa. They had been picking strawberries for $35 a day. “So we came from Santa Maria, California, to this town, for Tyson,” Ortiz says. Her parents took jobs at the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, in 1994, just as the meatpacking industry was in a race to the bottom. In the 1980s, meatpacking companies had begun vertically integrating their operations to control the whole supply chain, from the farmers who raise the animals to the workers who kill them and package the meat.

The Plot To Keep Meatpacking Plants Open During COVID-19

As hundreds of meatpacking workers fell sick from the coronavirus that was spreading through their plants and into their communities in April 2020, the CEO of Tyson Foods reached out to the head of another major meatpacker, Smithfield Foods, with a proposal. Smithfield’s pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, had been hit particularly hard, and state and local officials were pressuring the company to shut it down. “Anything we can do to help?” Tyson CEO Noel White asked in an email. Smithfield’s CEO Ken Sullivan replied that he wished there was. But White had an idea. Would Sullivan like to discuss the possibility of getting President Donald Trump to sign an executive order to keep meatpacking plants open?

Poultry Workers Walk Out In Arkansas To Protest COVID-19 Conditions

On the morning of Dec. 8, about 30 workers at a George's poultry plant in Springdale, Arkansas, staged a walkout to protest their working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The family-owned company, one of the 10 biggest poultry producers in the U.S., is headquartered in Springdale and also operates processing plants in Virginia and Missouri as well as a prepared foods division in Tennessee, with more than 4,800 employees across all locations. The plant that workers walked out of is one of the company's three plants in Springdale and is not unionized. The Springdale walkout, which the workers plan to continue until their demands are met, was the first labor action of its kind by poultry workers in Arkansas, said Magaly Licolli, the leader of Arkansas workers' justice organization Venceremos.

Meatpacking Workers Continue To Struggle During The Pandemic

Five thousand plant workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in Nebraska, representing nearly 20 percent of cases statewide, and at least 21 of those workers have died. Plants predominantly employ immigrants and refugees, consisting mostly of Latinos, but also Sudanese, Bhutanese, Vietnamese, and other groups. Even though workers’ pay increased at the plants, so too did their workload. With many still out sick, workers have been expected to keep up with line speeds operating at full capacity. Many workers live in multigenerational homes, and the coronavirus case and death figures cited by Sen. Vargas do not account for infected friends and family that could be traced back to plants. Finally, as has been the case historically, plant workers speaking up about their rights or safety concerns is viewed by employers as an act of insubordination and disciplined as such.

Immigrant Meatpackers Fightback Against Intimidation And Death Traps

As COVID-19 ravages communities across the U.S., many experts agree that meatpacking plants, where employees work shoulder-to-shoulder, are the next ground zero for the spread of COVID-19. In several rural communities with sudden COVID-19 spikes, many residents say that the meatpacking plants that surround the city and employ several thousand area residents are responsible for accelerating the spread of COVID-19.  Albany, Ga., rocked by COVID-19, has seen more than 30 people die from the virus. For a city of only 70,000, Albany has the fourth-highest per capita rate of COVID-19 cases, with 659 cases for every 100,000 people. The town is ringed by a series of a half-dozen meatpacking plants, where thousands of workers are employed in meatpacking. 
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