[lit-ideas] Re: from NYT, Herbert's column today

  • From: "Andy Amago" <aamago@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2006 22:06:02 -0400

Since the Mexican government won't protect its citizens in the U.S., and
the Mexican government doesn't care about its citizens generally except to
export them, and since the U.S. government won't protect Mexican citizens,
and American corporations are hiring them specifically so they can exploit
them, the only answer is to stop eating pigs.  Why is no one protesting
that those poor pigs are being killed?   I hope everybody who eats pork
gets trichinosis.  

> [Original Message]
> From: Carol Kirschenbaum <carolkir@xxxxxxxx>
> To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Date: 6/15/2006 7:52:42 PM
> Subject: [lit-ideas] from NYT, Herbert's column today
> FYI-
> from NYT Select
> Herbert focuses on the pork industry. In Fresno, it's beef. Horrendous
> conditions. Mostly immigrant (illegal) workers. The emotional trauma
> is unbelievable. A "living wage" does not really address the exploitative 
> issues here. Where is OSHA, for instance?
> >ck
> *****************************
> Op-Ed Columnist
>   Where the Hogs Come First
>   a.. By BOB HERBERT
> Published: June 15, 2006
> Tar Heel, N.C.
>  Think pork. Sizzling bacon and breakfast sausage. Juicy chops and ribs
> robust holiday hams.
> The pork capital of the planet is this tiny town in the Cape Fear River 
> basin, not far from the South Carolina border. Spending a few days in Tar 
> Heel and the surrounding area - dotted with hog farms, cornfields and the 
> occasional Confederate flag - is like stepping back in time. This is a
> where progress has slowed to a crawl.
> Tar Heel's raison d'être (and the employment anchor for much of the
> is the mammoth plant of the Smithfield Packing Company, a 
> million-square-foot colossus that is the largest pork processing facility
> the world.
> You can learn a lot at Smithfield. It's a case study in both the
> of hogs (some 32,000 are slaughtered there each day) and the systematic 
> exploitation of vulnerable workers. More than 5,500 men and women work at 
> Smithfield, most of them Latino or black, and nearly all of them 
> undereducated and poor.
> The big issue at Smithfield is not necessarily money. Workers are drawn 
> there from all over the region, sometimes traveling in crowded vans for
> hours or more each day, because the starting pay - until recently, $8 and 
> change an hour - is higher than the pay at most other jobs available to 
> them.
> But the work is often brutal beyond imagining. Company officials will
> you everything is fine, but serious injuries abound, and the company has 
> used illegal and, at times, violent tactics over the course of a dozen
> to keep the workers from joining a union that would give them a modicum
> protection and dignity.
> "It was depressing inside there," said Edward Morrison, who spent hour
> hour flipping bloody hog carcasses on the kill floor, until he was
> last fall after just a few months on the job. "You have to work fast
> that machine is shooting those hogs out at you constantly. You can end up 
> with all this blood dripping down on you, all these feces and stuff just 
> hanging off of you. It's a terrible environment.
> "We've had guys walk off after the first break and never return."
> Mr. Morrison's comments were echoed by a young man who was with a group
> Smithfield workers waiting for a van to pick them up at a gas station in 
> Dillon, S.C., nearly 50 miles from Tar Heel. "The line do move fast," the 
> young man said, "and people do get hurt. You can hear 'em hollering when 
> they're on their way to the clinic."
> Workers are cut by the flashing, slashing knives that slice the meat from 
> the bones. They are hurt sliding and falling on floors and stairs that
> slick with blood, guts and a variety of fluids. They suffer repetitive 
> motion injuries.
> The processing line on the kill floor moves hogs past the workers at the 
> dizzying rate of one every three or four seconds.
> Union representation would make a big difference for Smithfield workers.
> United Food and Commercial Workers Union has been trying to organize the 
> plant since the mid-1990's. Smithfield has responded with tactics that
> ranged from the sleazy to the reprehensible.
> After an exhaustive investigation, a judge found that the company had 
> threatened to shut down the entire plant if the workers dared to
> and had warned Latino workers that immigration authorities would be
> if they voted for a union.
> The union lost votes to organize the plant in 1994 and 1997, but the
> of those elections were thrown out by the National Labor Relations Board 
> after the judge found that Smithfield had prevented the union from
> fair elections. The judge said the company had engaged in myriad
> violations of federal labor law, including threatening, intimidating and 
> firing workers involved in the organizing effort, and beating up a worker 
> "for engaging in union activities."
> Rather than obey the directives of the board and subsequent court
> the company has tied the matter up on appeals that have lasted for years.
> U.S. Court of Appeals ruling just last month referred to "the intense and 
> widespread coercion prevalent at the Tar Heel facility."
> Workers at Smithfield and their families are suffering while the
> dithers, refusing to require a mighty corporation like Smithfield to obey 
> the nation's labor laws in a timely manner.
> The defiance, greed and misplaced humanity of the merchants of misery at
> apex of the Smithfield power structure are matters consumers might keep
> mind as they bite into that next sizzling, succulent morsel of Smithfield 
> pork.
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