Saturday, January 10, 2015

‘I felt like a piece of trash’ – Life inside America’s food processing plants

A new book offers a damning insight into conditions for low-paid, non-union, immigrant workers helping to feed our huge appetite for cheap meat

Ted Genoways, The Guardian
December 20, 2014

Maria Lopez will never forget that day. It was 2004, the middle of an ordinary shift on the line at Hormel Foods – a sprawling brick-and-concrete complex on the southern edge of Fremont, Nebraska. The worker beside her fed pork shoulders one after another into a spinning saw, just as he did every other day of the week, while Lopez gathered and bagged the trimmed fat to go into Spam. The pace of work had always been steady, but the speed of the line had jumped recently – from 1,000 pigs per hour to more than 1,100 – and Lopez was having trouble keeping up.

As her co-worker reached for another shoulder, Lopez rushed to clear the cutting area, and her fingers slipped toward the saw blade. She snatched her hand back but too late. Her index finger dangled by a flap of skin, the bone cut clean through. She screamed as blood spurted and covered her workstation.

When Lopez returned to Hormel two months later, her finger surgically reattached but still splinted, she claims to have discovered a stomach-turning truth: that while she sprinted to the nurse’s station and was taken to the local hospital, while she waited, finger wrapped, in the emergency room for the surgeon to drive in from Omaha, the cut line at Hormel continued to run.[...]

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