Poultry Plant 6349bd5ef3649

We Need Workers, So Let’s Not Abuse Them

Oct. 14, 2022
Immigration raids aren’t going to help the labor shortage.

It’s hard for poultry plants to find floor workers. Anyone who has ever been in one knows why. It’s unpleasant work, which is why many of the people drawn to it tend not to have a lot of other employment options.

So if we as a country want a reliable supply of chicken and turkey, one thing we can do is treat the people who work in those plants better – or at least not like immigration agents are alleged to have done during a raid on a poultry plant in Bean Station, Tenn., in April 2018.

The raid resulted in the detention of almost 100 workers. According to Tennessee Lookout, video inside the plant shows that the agents immediately separated the Hispanic workers from the others and singled them out for abuse before hauling them off to a National Guard armory to await their fate.

Most of the workers accepted the situation, but seven sued. According to their lawsuit, agents yelled at them to “go back to your own [obscenity] country” and made them pose for humiliating selfies. The suit resulted in a settlement exceeding $1 million to be divided among the six plaintiffs (one dropped out), plus others who were detained.

To make this even more outrageous, the raid wasn’t even supposed to be about undocumented workers in the first place. According to the Lookout’s account, the warrant authorizing it was about the owner’s practice of evading payroll taxes by paying employees in cash (and not much of that – wages there were reportedly as low as $6 an hour). He ended up pleading guilty to tax and fraud charges.

As Dave Fusaro, our chief editor, recently wrote, it’s ridiculous to have a restrictive immigration policy while employers of all kinds are desperate for workers. Loosening immigration rules is probably impossible in the current political climate. But can we at least take a vague step in that direction by not mistreating the immigrant workers we have?

About the Author

Pan Demetrakakes | Senior Editor

Pan has written about the food and beverage industry for more than 25 years. His areas of coverage have included formulations, processing, packaging, marketing and retailing. Pan worked for Food Processing Magazine for six years in the 1990s, where he was operations editor (his current role), touring dozens of food plants of every description. He has also worked for Packaging and Food & Beverage Packaging magazines, the latter as chief editor, during which he won three ASBPE awards. He is a graduate of Stanford University with a BA in communications.

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