The report is straight out of an Upton Sinclair novel decrying child labor horrors of the early 1900s. In a shocking news release on Nov. 9, the US Department of Labor announced it had discovered that a major food sanitation cleaning company for meatpackers had “at least 31 children” working under extremely hazardous conditions. Sanitation cleaning at meat processing facilities has long been considered one of the most dangerous jobs in modern America.
Americans do not have to be told what is fueling this return to Sinclair and the days of The Jungle. The report is another indictment of the ugly coarsening of the work environment in this country thanks to massive unchecked illegal immigration.
Perilous Child Labor in 2022 America
“The U.S. Department of Labor [has] asked a federal court to issue a nationwide temporary restraining order and injunction against Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD – one of the nation’s leading providers of food safety sanitation – to stop the company from illegally employing dozens of minor-aged workers,” the Labor Dept. release read.
“[T]he complaint was prompted by an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that discovered that PSSI had employed at least 31 children – from 13 to 17 years of age – in hazardous occupations. The jobs performed by children included cleaning dangerous powered equipment during overnight shifts… Investigators also learned that several minors employed by PSSI – including one 13-years-old – suffered caustic chemical burns and other injuries.”
PSSI is a big fish in its field, providing services at about 700 food processing plants across the country. The company has a track record, and it is not pretty.
This Is How It Happens
PSSI was prominently featured in a gruesome Dec. 2017 article by Bloomberg Businessweek titled “America’s Worst Graveyard Shift Is Grinding Up Workers.”
“Cleanup at the slaughterhouse is as dangerous as it is repulsive, and the immigrants who do the work are under pressure to complete it faster than ever,” a subhead noted. The term “immigrants” is misused to refer to desperate illegal aliens being exploited as cheap labor. An excerpt deserves to be quoted at length:
“No one knew her real name. At work she was Tiffany Sisneros, until her arm got crushed in a conveyor belt…. We’ll call her Martha, the name her lawyer uses. Like millions of undocumented immigrants, Martha lived in the shadows….
“It was about 3:30 a.m. on July 7, 2011, when Martha finished cleaning conveyor belt FC-3A on the main factory floor. After powering the machine back on, she realized she had forgotten to wipe down a spot where fat collects under the side rail. Such deposits, if neglected, can shut down a processing line, at considerable cost in lost output, if a USDA inspector discovers it during daily swab tests.
“So Martha reached under the moving belt to get at the smudge and lost her balance…. As she tried to brace herself, her left hand got caught in the machine’s roller, which reeled her in past her elbow, twisting and cracking her forearm. A supervisor heard her scream and shut down the line. Maintenance workers had to dismantle the guards and rollers to get her out. The radius and ulna bones could be seen sticking out of her arm, in shards.”
Martha worked on a cleaning crew employed by PSSI. “The meatpacking industry has a hard enough time filling daytime production jobs, so many bigger plants staff the night shift through contractors such as Packers. These companies pay their largely immigrant workforce up to a third less than what production employees earn during the day,” Bloomberg wrote.
The work is exceedingly rough, involving “highpressure hoses, chemical vapors, blood, grease, and frantic deadlines, all swirling in clouds of steam around pulsing belts, blades, and blenders,” the article luridly details.
And it is largely performed by uneducated foreigners who usually don’t speak English. To blame Martha for putting her hand under a powerful machine as it operates is beside the point. Such accidents are inevitable given such a workforce and the nature of the job.
PSSI “has some of the worst rates of workplace injuries in the country, according to a 2017 analysis by the worker protection advocacy group the National Employment Law Project,” NBC News reported in a 2021 article on the company.
“PSSI had the 14th highest number of severe worker injuries in the country out of 14,000 workplaces despite employing only 17,000 workers,” NELP found. “Every other dangerous workplace to make the list employed between 44,000 and 1.6 million workers domestically.”
NBC highlighted another demographic that makes up PSSI’s vulnerable employee pool – ex-convicts. It began by detailing the death of a 39-year-old PSSI worker who was beheaded while cleaning at a chicken processing plant in Alabama in 2019.
PSSI seems to accept this as business as usual. The company makes all employees sign a liability waiver declaring that they assume the risk of dying on the job. “I understand that performance of work or services on the customer’s property can result in personal harm, loss, damage, injury, or death. I accept these risks,” the waiver stated. This is the company now being probed for hiring dozens of children.
“Packers brings in more than $800 million a year in revenue,” Bloomberg noted in its 2017 report.
America made tremendous progress over the long course of the 20th century in overcoming the worst of the scandalous working conditions portrayed 120 years ago by Upton Sinclair and other muckraking writers of his time. But thanks in large part to a three-decade boom in illegal immigration that is greatly fueled by big corporate love of a cheap and pliable labor force, the nation is faced with a slow but constant degradation of employment and the working class. Its most vile manifestation is child labor abuse. To see it in 2022 is worse than a crime – it is an abomination.
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