Our VoiceImmigration

Leaders Work to Counter Harsh Realities of Meat Packing


Garat Ibrahim • Jan 22, 2010

It is very difficult to have a good understanding of the hands that feed us every day and the harsh reality that workers undergo daily in the meat packing industry. These are some of the hardest jobs in the food industry and most dangerous in any industry. So it falls to the newest immigrants, refugees and people of color in general to fill these jobs and bear the burden of their risks.

I would like to share the reality of what is happening in rural Midwest communities. The suffering due to work-related injuries is increasing every day now, but many feel they have no other option. These are the highest-risk, lowest-paying jobs in the industry. Unfortunately, the employers know quite well the suffering of workers, but greed has overtaken where there should be humanity.

Injuries and suffering are talked about daily in these communities, but some individuals have had enough and are standing up for the rights of all. The stories of these brave individuals range from those fighting for simple bathroom breaks to a diabetic patient requiring just a glass of water during the day to maintain his blood sugar to the Muslim worker who is forced to choose between faith and a job when management denies his/her right to perform daily prayers.

In my opinion, one of the great things to come out of this renewed stand for justice is the power of people of diverse and different backgrounds coming together to work not only on workplace issues, but health issues for the rest of the community, like securing H1N1 vaccines or transportation for families to supermarkets.

Last week, the second Health Action Council regional meeting, sponsored by the Center for New Community, was held in Iowa, and it was wonderful to see talented leaders come together to advance the agenda of shared concerns. It was a testimonial to the diversity in the group and the great interest of issues that cut across their individual communities. Many at the table were able to share the zeal and strength of leadership and capacity for success of their health action councils.

Many of the leaders reiterated the passion they have and it was quite extraordinary to see some of the local work transform itself into the a larger context.

An OSHA representative came to consult with the workers and was able to share a lot about how immigrant and refugee workers can forge better relationships with agencies to provide trainings and resources.

The fruits of this struggle are still on the horizon, but the lesson learned is that we will always prosper and remain steadfast in our commitment for a better tomorrow.

Imagine 2050 Newsletter

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