A recent article published by ProPublica, an independent news and investigation group, has pulled back the curtain on livestock and meatpacking industries. According to the article, inhumane conditions were experienced at a Case Farms chicken plant in Canton, Ohio but mum was the word up until the report. Why had the poor working conditions been allowed to exist? It could be due to the fact that poultry processing plants routinely and intentionally hire undocumented immigrants who fear deportation and other penalties if they speak up.
The ProPublica article stated that Case Farms in particular was seeking undocumented immigrants for employees since as far back as 1989. It highlighted an accident at the Canton plant that resulted in an undocumented immigrant worker losing his leg after climbing atop and falling into a piece of heavy machinery; the worker claimed that he had been instructed by supervisors to clean the machine by climbing it. The reporter also wrote that they spoke to employees that spoke of dismal wages, well below the legal minimum, and even resorting to wearing diapers on-the-job because bathroom breaks were rarely permitted.
According to the ProPublica article, Case Farms and other companies in the industry used undocumented immigrants to cut costs. Money could be saved by paying them less, training them less, and shirking workers’ compensation obligations. The article discussed one case where a woman’s hand developed carpal tunnel after wearing a chainmail glove each day for hours and hours. After a lengthy effort to get compensation, or just time off work, the undocumented woman was eventually terminated as a “probationary employee.” In effect, undocumented workers start off at a disadvantage and have nowhere to turn for help when something goes wrong.
Seeking Justice for Injured Undocumented Workers
What does the federal government think of all of the controversy and dangers apparently thick throughout livestock industries and the like? A 2002 Supreme Court decision held that undocumented workers can complain about unsafe, unfair, and unjust work. The caveat being that employers cannot be compelled to rehire any wrongfully terminated undocumented employees, nor do they owe them any backed wages lost due to injury or termination. Once again, this serves as a major disincentive for undocumented employees to say something about exploitative, abusive, or dangerous conditions.
(If you are interested in reading the full ProPublica article, it was picked up and redistributed by The New Yorker. You can click here to visit the New Yorker publication of the original article.)
At The Law Office of George P. Escobedo & Associates, PLLC, we are passionate about seeking justice for injured workers, no matter their background or residency status. Our San Antonio workers’ compensation attorney has a reputation for taking on corporations and insurance companies on behalf of our clients after they are denied fair workers’ compensation benefits. Call 210.807.3178 to schedule a free initial consultation with our caring and experienced legal team today.