Beef and chicken packing plants remain “brutal” workplaces, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of the industry. More than 100 years ago, Sinclair Lewis, in “The Jungle,” wrote of brutal work conditions and treatment of Eastern European immigrants. Today the brutality continues, but the immigrants are from Latin America and, increasingly, Africa. The meat industry recruits them. The pay sucks, the conditions are uncomfortable, and the injuries pile on. Wages are frequently below $15 an hour.
Fifteen years ago, Eric Schlosser wrote “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal,” which was considered a modern “Jungle.” He wrote of fast line speed in the modern packing industry and pointed out how it devastated modern workers. The book was a best-seller and made it to the big screen. It was a noble effort to get changes that protected packing-plant workers. Sadly, the bulk of legal reforms since the book have benefited employers. They attack workers every year in every state legislature. Sadly, the workers who bring us the food we enjoy just keep getting ignored.
It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same for this group of hardworking people.