FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Melting Pot in Hell

by MARTHA ROSENBERG

Orthodox Jews and Latinos are clashing in Postville, IA. Somalis and Latinos are clashing in Shelbyville TN. Somalis, Latinos and Sudanese are clashing in Grand Island, NE. And you’d think it has nothing to do with slaughterhouses.

It’s about prayer breaks during Ramadan, paid holidays, cultural clashes and “assimilation into the American melting pot,” say news reports. Not the $8 an hour knocker, sticker, bleeder, tail ripper, flanker, gutter, sawer, and plate boner slaughterhouse jobs that even Americans prisoners on work release won’t do.

Since US immigration officials began plucking 2,000 illegal Latino workers from meat packing plants in late 2006, hundreds of Somalis have taken up the cudgel, pun intended.

Unfortunately, it has led to new problems.

When Tyson Foods made Eid al-Fitr instead of Labor Day a paid holiday for Somali workers at its Shelbyville, TN plant in August there was such a backlash from other workers, they had to reverse the decision.

When JBS Swift’s Grand Island, NE plant gave striking Somali workers the concession of an earlier dinner break so they could pray at sunset, it sparked a counter demonstration of whites, Hispanics and Sudanese workers charging favoritism.

Prayer rights have conflagrated at the JBS Swift plant in Greeley, CO and Gold’n Plump poultry processor plants in Cold Spring and Arcadia, WI.

And the death of a slaughterhouse worker from TB at a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse in 2007–the employee was reported as “injured while helping prepare an animal for slaughter”–brought tempers to a froth in Emporia, KN.

“Was Tyson attempting to deceive the public as to the reason or cause for this employee’s death?” asked a commentator on the Emporia Gazette’s web site.

“When the Gazette ran a story that Tyson’s was testing employees and none of them had TB…who was lying to us, the Gazette or Tyson’s?” posted another.

Entries raising questions about the safety of workers and food products at the plant followed.

The plant has since closed.

Of course the Poster company for immigration abuse is Postville, IA-based Agriprocessors, the nation’s biggest kosher slaughterhouse, which lost half of its work force to an immigration raid in May.

Agriprocessors has been charged with illegally using child labor, physical and sexual abuse of workers, acts of inhumane slaughter, unsafe working conditions, requiring 11-17 hour shifts with no overtime pay, paying wages below minimum wage and shorting pay checks.

Even Barack Obama commented on the Agriprocessors ethical black hole on a campaign stop in Davenport, IA, remarking, “They have kids in there wielding buzz saws and cleavers. It’s ridiculous.”

But read about Postville since the raid and you’d think you were reading a Steinbeck novel.

You’d think the robed Somalis and Hasidic Jews, “beetle nut spitting” Palauans and Guatemalans in post-arrest ankle bracelets as the Des Moines Register describes them were gathered for an international film festival instead of to disembowel animals for $6 an hour.

You’d think the Somalis and Palauans were in Iowa for the crisp fall air instead of as the result of a concerted campaign by Big Meat to hire two cheap labors pools allowed to work legally in the US due to special arrangements with the government.

The story is not about the niceties of religious observance, cultural assimilation and the wonders of the melting pot in small towns in America that happen to have slaughterhouses.

It’s about jobs that can only be filled with children, people with TB, African refugees and Pacific islanders used to earning $2.50 an hour.

It’s about the fact that America cannot afford its cheap meat habit without imported labor.

It’s about what’s for dinner.

MARTHA ROSENBERG is staff cartoonist on the Evanston Roundtable. She can be reached at mrosenberg@evmark.org

 

 

 

 

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail