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Thus, employees are discouraged from reporting abuses and safety issues because of fear of retaliation. As noted, if they are illegal immigrants, they fear deportation or reporting to INS, and they fear losing their jobs, and so, they do not report safety issues that could be life threatening. Retaliation should not occur, and a worker should not have to fear for their livelihood just to protect themselves and their co-workers. Again, the packers are only interested in their profits, rather than their workers. This is an excellent recommendation and it should not only be enacted, it should also be strictly enforced, and those who do not adhere to it should be fined, punished, or shut down.
Another issue facing many employees is the issue of union membership. Under national and international standards, any employee should be free to join a union without retaliation, but again, this seems to be ignored in the meatpacking industry. Another employee said, "My supervisor said if we sign a union card the company will find out and fire us" (Editors, 2005). Workers are afraid for their jobs if they join a union, and although this is not supposed to happen in modern industry, it is clear it still does. The meatpackers have the advantage, and they know it. They are often the only employer for many families, and the threat of losing their livelihood keeps them from reporting problems, joining a union, and reporting injuries. It is a sad statement that any arm of American business still feels it is legitimate to operate this way. It is equally sad that some many regulatory agencies seem to look the other way and ignore the problems.
Laws should not only cover workers who are legal immigrants. While illegal immigrants may not have rights in some areas, everyone has the right to work in a safe environment, no matter who they are. Laws should cover every worker, and not make exceptions for immigrants or others management happens to single out. The truth is; many immigrants are the only people who will do many of the jobs necessary in a meatpacking plant. Because of this, management preys on them and creates fear in the workplace, threatening them with deportation or reporting to immigration authorities if the workers baulk at management practices. Another immigrant said, "They have us under threat all the time. They know most of us are undocumented -- probably two-thirds. All they care about is getting bodies into the plant. My supervisor said they say they'll call the INS if we make trouble" (Editors, 2005). Undocumented workers pose a specific challenge for these laws and recommendation, but simply because a worker is undocumented should not mean he or she should not be eligible for basic human rights. Workers have the right to a safe environment no matter who they are or where they come from.
In conclusion, it is clear the meatpacking industry is still not taking safety recommendations seriously. Their profits seem more important and valuable than the workers who help create those profits. Some packing plants have shut down as a result of investigations and safety issues, and it is clear that OSHA needs to keep a tighter rein on these plants to ensure they do not continue to injure and kill workers in the future. These recommendations by the HRW are all valid, and should be implemented throughout the meatpacking industry as soon as possible.
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Editors. (Jan. 2005). Abuses against workers taint U.S. meat and poultry. Retrieved from the Human Rights Watch Web site: http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2005/01/25/usdom10052.htm13 Dec. 2006.
Gonzalez, Cindy. (Jan. 26, 2005). Group criticizes packers: Meat industry officials dismiss Human Rights Watch report Recommendations; [Iowa, Nebraska Edition]. Omaha…[continue]
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