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

 

 


Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail