Meat Packing Employee Hell
Food, Inc., the movie shows the worst of the meat packing industry. The movie says that meat packing is one of the most dangerous jobs. Imagine, more dangerous than mining or law enforcement.
Multinational meat companies have little regard for cows, chickens, and pigs and less regard for their employees. Generally, to meet production goals, the processing lines at the plant move extremely fast. Workers who fall behind are verbally abused or fired. Others do their best to keep up, but very few work in the plant for more than a few months before experiencing an injury from the grueling work.
The list of injuries reported in one of the biggest plants, according to the “Packaged with Abuse” report claims that repetitive motion disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, contusions, and blunt traumas from slipping and falling on wet floors, cuts and punctures, infections causing the fingernail to separate from the finger, fractures, amputations, burns, hernias, rashes, and swelling are all potential dangers to workers.
From January to July of 2006, 463 injuries were reported in one particular plant which surpassed a total of 421 in the previous year. The report goes on to say that, instead of helping the wounded workers, the company uses intimidation to prevent employees from reporting their injuries. Even when they do report injuries, they are often denied workers' compensation. And then because of their disabilities they frequently cannot find gainful employment again.
All of the allegations made in the report are the subject of a lawsuit that the company brought against the union (UFCW), Research Associates of America, and others for maliciously causing a false report to be published about the working conditions at this North Carolina plant.
The report also claimed that in 2003, a 25-year old employee climbed into a tank to clean it and was quickly overcome with toxic fumes and died. The North Carolina OSHA found that the employee had not been properly trained or supervised and the tank was not labeled as dangerous. OSHA fined the company $4,323.
Safety issues continued after this incident. In March 2005, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted a walk-through and safety inspection of the plant and found more than 50 violations of safety and health laws, with most of them categorized as serious. These included a lack of safety training, unguarded blades, missing guardrails, blocked exits, illegible signage, and improper safety procedures.
Sub-contractors vs. employees
The Construction Workers Fraud Act (HB 400) is currently waiting for approval in the Pennsylvania Senate. It passed the House of Representatives. The bill would punish construction companies or small carrier companies for misclassifying workers as independent contractors in order to avoid paying taxes and workers compensation premiums.
Companies who misclassify workers avoid paying higher wages, health benefits, pensions, employment taxes and other costs. It's not only tax evasion but cheats workers out of benefits. Employers who repeatedly use this practice gain a competitive advantage over the vast majority of employers who are playing by the rules and treating their employees fairly.
The practice of intentionally misclassifying workers drives down wages and living standards for Pennsylvania workers and Pennsylvania tax payers lose millions of dollars in revenue.
On the flip side the bill passed the House of Representatives by a wide margin and was poised for quick action in the Senate. However option from the trades associations plus other small business groups has slowed the bill's passage. The bill now sits in the Senate Labor Relations Committee, which will not take up the bill until this fall.