As incarcerated citizens make plans to initiate a worker's strike from sea to shining sea in the United States on August 21st (the day George Jackson was shot to death by guards in San Quentin in 1971), the Southern Poverty Law Center has released a night-marish report concerning the use -- and abuse -- of immigrants and incarcerated workers at chicken processing plants.
I first learned about the chicken processing industry because there's a plant near the small town where I live and I was talking to a guy who had gone to work there when he was released after doing 28 years in the Louisiana Department of Corrections for a $74 robbery. He explained what it was like to work there and by the time he finished telling me about standing in guts, blood, and slime; about being pressed to work rapid fire with sharp knives; about the Mexicans who were not allowed to speak to anyone else and were whisked away on a bus somewhere at 5 pm, I was stunned.
"That's not a job," I said. "It's a sentence."
"Pretty much," he responded.
And the next day, I saw a photo in the paper of a broadly smiling blonde (representing the family who owns the plant) handing a check to a local charity. Hmmmm....
So when I saw the SPLC article I'm re-posting today, I wasn't surprised that the prison-industrial complex has started skipping the part about waiting until people are released. Why bother? If it's good enough for Victoria Secret and Starbucks, why should chicken processing plants not climb on the gravy train?
The Kill Line
by Will Tucker, SPLC -- 7/26/18
Work release might have seemed like a sort of safe haven for Ellington. Living in a work release center and going to work some days was better than spending all his time in one of Alabama’s violent, vastly overcrowded prisons. Assaults, murders and suicides are far less common in work release facilities than in ADOC’s medium- and maximum-security facilities.
In poultry plants, chickens are decapitated, drained of blood, scalded of their feathers and deboned. The carcasses are then chilled and “rehanged,” or fastened to the conveyor carrying them down the line. Thousands of birds are processed per day. To prevent harm to themselves and others, workers must stay mindful of sharp tools, slippery floors, noisy machinery, chicken waste and potentially hazardous sanitation chemicals.