Sunday, July 6, 2008

Postville Update: Severed Limbs Common at Agriprocessor´s Medieval Plant!

Medieval! The Des Moines Register, the warrant and the OSHA reports tell us the Conditions at the Agriprocessors plant have been medieval for some time! They have a long history of amputations including severed hands, feet, crushed body parts. Workers were made to work long hours (up to and over 80 hours in a week with no overtime) in unsafe conditions and no safety equipment.
Plant has long history of safety violations
Three months ago, state officials cited Agriprocessors for 39 workplace safety violations - an unusually large number.Federal and state records give conflicting information on fines against the company, but for the past few years Agriprocessors appears to have compiled one of the worst safety records of any meatpacking plant in Iowa. Although detailed worker-injury reports since 2006 are not publicly available, the Register has reviewed Agriprocessors' reports for the three previous years.
In 2003, the company reported 83 employee injuries, including smashed ankles, lacerated tendons in hands, smashed arms, and amputated fingers.
In 2004, the number of injuries jumped 45 percent, to 120, with workers being treated for chemical burns to their eyes and feet, third-degree burns, hand lacerations and broken ribs.
In 2005, the number of injuries dropped to 103. They included hearing losses, smashed fingers and severed fingers. The 2005 reports include the three amputations that began with Carlos Torrez's loss of a finger.
State records indicate that four weeks after that accident, Adolfo Lopez, 26, was working on a machine called "the foot masher."Witnesses said they heard Lopez screaming about 5:30 a.m. He had been clearing debris from inside the machine when a supervisor unwittingly turned on the device, crushing Lopez's left hand."I saw (Lopez) caught up in the gears, the teeth of the foot masher," maintenance worker Deon Branish told officials. "His left hand was stuck all the way to the wrist." Ten days after that incident, plant sanitation manager Jeff Bohr was at home when a co-worker called to tell him Eduardo Santos, 25, was in the laundry room with a severe hand injury. Bohr went to the plant, examined Santos' right hand, and called an ambulance. Then he looked into the machine Santos had been working on and saw pieces of two work gloves."There were also pieces of skin and bone," Bohr wrote in his report.Company records indicate Santos lost two fingers and a thumb. The remainder of his hand was crushed.
Workers must pay for safety equipment:
Company records indicate that workers had long been forced to either do without the protective gear or purchase it themselves from the company. And because some workers allegedly had no lockers at the plant, they often took their chemical-soaked rain suits home with them at the end of their shift. Company Vice President Sholom Rubashkin, in a September 2000 memo to all employees, included an "equipment price list" that identifies rain pants and jackets, as well as "wrist wraps" and "back support," as "personal clothing-type equipment," rather than mandatory, company-issued safety equipment. For at least six years, workers were being charged $30 for the pants and $30 for the jackets. Boots were $20.85. At those prices, 100 rain suits would have generated $8,000 in revenue for the company. By comparison, the state fine for this serious safety violation was $1,000.
In December 2006, a commission appointed by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism found significant health and safety concerns at the Postville plant, including unsafe chemical use and "inadequate or nonexistent safety training."OSHA cited the company for more violations, and federal investigators launched a wide-ranging investigation into allegations of people in the United States illegally who were hired there, of child-labor law violations and of workplace safety issues.
Court records show that in January 2008, federal authorities equipped an informant with a hidden device to record a safety briefing for new employees. During the briefing, employees were allegedly told that their pay would be docked $2 per week to pay for gowns and gloves that they were required to wear. That informant, and another, made broader allegations, too. One told authorities a plant supervisor had put duct tape over the eyes of a Guatemalan worker and then beat the worker with a meat hook. Another told authorities that some workers were paid less than minimum wage and were paid in cash. Several informants alleged that the Postville work force was rife with illegal immigrants.
In April, Eric Frumin of the Change To Win labor organization testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee that was investigating workplace safety. He told senators that Agriprocessors had just been cited for 39 additional violations of health and safety regulations that carried potential fines totaling $182,000. "For perspective," he testified, "in 2007, Iowa OSHA issued 19 violations for all meatpacking plants in Iowa, with fines totaling over $120,000."What Frumin didn't realize was that the Iowa OSHA office had already agreed to cut Agriprocessors' fines. The agreement would not be made public for several weeks, but when it was, it showed the state had cut the proposed $182,000 fine to $42,750.
The company has had annual revenue of $250 million.


Liquidmicro said...

Here is a thought.... Why were so few American Citizens, you know "White Anglo Europeans", if any at all, not working there?

This company will go out of business all on its own accord simply because, unless they correct there deficiencies in safety and allow the Unions in with Citizen workers, they can't get employees unless they have a "Guest Worker Program". A company such as this should never have been in business to begin with.

Dee said...

We agree!
As Dianne and I have both said, Agriprocessors purposely moved to a remote area to
1. receive tax breaks
2. keep isolated since their plan was to bring in illegal workers to exploit them.

They knew what they were doing.

Dee said...

I suspect there will be more foot dragging. Eventually the company will be fined. If the "heat" we are creating does not lessen, then they will close their business and relocate to another country.
Agriprocessors is after high profit. It is obvious they think of their workeres as inferiors. That is why they allowed them to work in sub-human conditions.

Liquidmicro said...

The moved for tax breaks and probably other reason too, however to state that there plan was to bring in illegal workers is a bit fallacious. The purchased as existing meat cutting plant, saved money that way. The workers came to them, none were "imported", read your articles, comprehend them, also look to the warrant, it states the same thing, none were 'imported'.

Have you done any research into the owners of all the businesses that have been raided? How many are of immigrant status meaning LPR/GC to citizenship?

Dee said...

I wrote about the history of Postville extensively. Go back to my 1st few blogs about them. Reas about their purposely remaining isolated from the townsfolks.
I believe they will be indicted because there is probable cause and the PRO Blogosphere is NOT going to back off. WE are going to keep up the Heat! Plus I go on a many sites that right about Postville. The tide is turning my friend.

I look for an apology from you once the owners are in fact indicted!

Liquidmicro said...

No apology on behalf will be necessary. As I have stated I am for the Rule of Law. So far, as you have shown, you have only accusations against Aaron Rabashkin, accusations are not 'factual evidence'. The Law does not convict on accusations. Until there is definitive proof against Rabashkin, I am afraid he will be free and only have his reputation harmed. The plant eventually be shut down of its own accord due to simply being unable to fulfill the employment needs, which is how it should be. The devastation brought to this town, I don't live there nor have I ever been there, is only that of what I have read through news articles. They seem very unflattering towards the Company and its behavior.

"The tide is turning my friend. " You sure sound a lot like John McCain and Juan Hernandez, is this some sort of hint on your behalf?

Dee said...

I am participating in a comments discussion board right now and am learning about some changes in the OSHA law in 2002.
I have invited one of the experts over to discuss this with us. His name is N.Daniels and he is very knowledgeable. Hopefully he will be here soon and will discuss both the change in law in 2002 and how this created the environment for the abusive and exploitive environment at Meat processing plants.

Liquidmicro said...

Bloody Work: How Government, Industry Play the Numbers Game on Meatpackers' Safety

Here's a good read for you. Very informative.

Alie said...

I remember reading the book "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair in school. It was about the terrible working conditions at the meatpacking plants at the turn of the last century. It seems as though we are regressing back to the bad old days, at least at this plant.

So many gains were made through the labor unions to improve the working conditions and pay for people in these meatpacking plants. These are hard jobs, but I read that back in the early 80s, these jobs paid well and had good benefits. I read, though, that once the employers had access to the illegal workforce, the wages went down hill and the benefits ceased. So, American workers could no longer afford to work these jobs.

This is the biggest reason why I am against this illegal immigration. Pro-illegals keep saying that we get stuff cheaper. But at what price??? The employers exploit the illegal workers, pocket the extra profits, and pass the social costs on to the taxpayers.

In the article the man who got his finger cut off had a wife and four children and was making $500 take-home pay? I would think that it would be difficult to support a large family on such meager pay without supplementing with food stamps and other government benefits. And as long as these employers know they have a never ending supply of "cheap" labor, they have no reason to pay more or care about working conditions.

If we cannot secure the borders once and for all and enforce immigration laws, then one more amnesty is only going to lead to more illegal immigration and more exploitation of workers and depressed wages for American workers.

kyledeb said...

Good find, Dee. Your blogging seems to be getting better and better. Keep up the good work.

It's ridiculous that after these squalid conditions migrants were made to suffer more by being torn apart from their families.

dianne said...

"Across the nation, manufacturers and meatpackers have had the right to turn away safety inspectors since 1978. That's when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that inspections without court warrants violated the Fourth Amendment rights of companies that are not "closely regulated" by the government. Meatpacking plants are not considered closely regulated."

I found the above quote in one of the recent articles about Agri-Processors. I was very interested in the fact that not only does the company have the right to turn away inspectors without a search warrant, but also that the meantpacking plants are not considered closely regulated.

I'll be interested to see what that 2002 law is all about.

dianne said...

Everyone should read the above article. Extremely informative on all issues related to the meatpacking industry including their management and structure, regulation, slaughter practices, working conditions, workforce and current conditions.

It says the industry moved away from big cities to escape the unions. I have no doubt that was the case; however, they moved to places where there was not enough population to fill their jobs so it is logical to conclude that they KNEW they had to "import" their labor force from somewhere which is exactly what they did. They may not have sent buses to Mexico, but they certainly knew how to "advertise" to get foreign workers to the states and it sure as hell wasn't through a guest worker program.

The whole article is interesting. Talks about the horrible injuries common all across the industry, etc.

dianne said...

Liquid: Just read the article you referenced also. Very informative. Now I understand the 2002 law.

Dee said...

I read that too.
I dont believe that statute should have applied since they are not "closely regulated." I am going to read your article.

It is obvious to me why the Rubashkins moved their Agriprocessors plant to Postville and why they moved their other plant to an Indian Reservation. They had several violations in their New York plant. They moved to these remote locations to bust the unions and exploit workers!

Dee said...

I agree with you that the exploiting employers must be stopped. Also, Meat Packing plants need to meet OSHA standards and pay valid wages and overtime.

We do need Comprehensive Immigration Reform, the end to the huge immigration backlog and bring the workers here into some legal status. The unions should be back in place to ensure these companies meet the OSHA standards.

What I suspect will happen however is, if the Rubashkins are indicted, they will close their plants and move them out of the country to exploit workers somewhere else. They are Evil!!

Dee said...

I am dedicated to this story and will keep it going until the Rubashkins are indicted.
Thank you for the feedback.

adriana said...

This reminds me of Tyson Chicken (big friends of the Clintons).

Most of these meat packing plants are terrible... it is no wonder that they seek to employ those who are most easily exploited.

Dee said...

Yes. I agree. The meat packing industry is infamous for hiring those they can easily exploit for their hazardous work! They need to be stopped and made to meet OSHA standards.

Welcome to my blog. I hope you come back often! I like your blog too!!

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