Our VoiceHealth & Environment

Food Companies Put Profit First, People Last

Axel Fuentes • Jul 30, 2010

The working class is being oppressed by employers that only want to grow wealth regardless of the sacrifices or conditions for their workers. The primary and only goal for this type of employer is to make more money.  Few of these employers care to be fair to employees.

In a recent regional meeting, immigrant and refugee workers gathered again to address health and safety issues in meat processing plants. It was very clear from their discussions that plant owners, the people they work for, are more worried about an increase in profits than the workers’ lives. The high speed of work lines and the lack of attention to dangerous plant conditions are just two of several reasons why workers get hurt on the job. Plant managers continue to increase the speed of work lines while reducing the work force to produce more for less money - putting the workers at a higher risk of injury.

Often when workers are injured the companies just have them fired.  As with other industries, there are too many health issues and injustices being ignored.

Several times I heard from workers about how companies complain about every minute of downtime when an accident or mistake happens on the work line. And how managers remark to workers about the thousands of dollars lost for every minute of downtime, but never mention the thousands of dollars in profits when line speed is increased or when workers are forced to put in extra time without getting paid.

Recently a cleaning crew worker involved in an accident at his workplace was told by his supervisor that if he wanted to get medical care it would be better for him to lie and say that the accident occurred at his home; if not, he would be putting his job in jeopardy.  According to supervisors, reporting accidents increases the cost of premium insurances for the companies.

I don’t believe a law or government agency exists to regulate the speed of work lines in the meat processing industry. I thought it was OSHA, but after talking with OSHA representatives I found out that they don’t do it and the USDA only regulates line speed it if presents a risk to the quality of the product. It is very disappointing that no agency can take action if it represents a risk for the health and safety of people.

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