Sunday, August 11, 2019

Mass ICE Raids in Mississippi After Workers Fought for Better Conditions Explained

Beginning with Amy Goodman's reporting in this video from Democracy Now!, here are a few reports that raise a lot of concerns about the systematic dehumanization of immigrant workers and their families in Mississippi's chicken processing plants.   Relatedly, please do recall earlier reporting on the extremely consequential cruelty and resulting trauma already getting inflicted on children at the U.S.-Mexico border who as a  consequence of forced separation from their parents will pay an extremely high psychological price as follows:

This kind of trauma can permanently affect the brains of these children, and potentially their long-term development, explained Colleen Kraft, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, on Thursday at the Spotlight Health Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. Excerpted from Olga Khazan's June 22, 2018 piece in The Atlantic titled, Separating Kids From Their Families Can Permanently Damage Their Brains

As if to relish in the cruelty, this ICE raid in Mississippi also happened on the exact same day that Trump was in El Paso, ostensibly expressing concern for the victims of an anti-Mexican hate crime that slaughtered 22 people, injuring 26.  

The story told on Democracy Now! about Mississippi is that this was an act of retaliation against the plants that  had been unionized by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union because these corporations do not support unions.

CSUF Professor of Social Work
Dr. Michelle Martin

Finally, do read this analysis of companies raided this week by Dr. Michelle Martin Assistant Professor of Social Work at California State University, Fullerton that she posted recently on Facebook:

Koch Foods CEO Joseph C. Grendy
“I’ve been doing a bit of research on the companies that were raided this past week in MS. All six chicken processing companies have wealthy white owners, none of who have (yet) been charged criminally for knowingly hiring undocumented workers (and they did know, because all participate in the E-Verify program).

Here's some information about the largest company and the worst offender: Koch Foods, Inc. (no relation to the Koch brothers).  The CEO and president is Joseph C. Grendys, a 58 year old white man worth $3.3B.

Koch processes more than 50 million pounds of ready-to-cook chicken per week, slaughtering 12 million chickens per week. Koch Foods, Inc. processes Wal-Mart's "Great Value" buffalo wings, chicken strips, chicken tenders and popcorn chicken, Burger King's chicken nuggets and other private-label brands at grocery stores, such as Kroger and Aldi (Archer Farms).…/ct-confidential-chicken-bi…

Koch Foods, Inc. was raided under the Bush administration in 2007 for knowingly hiring undocumented workers, and they had to pay a fine of $536K in 2010:…/us-immigration-koch-idUSN28258450…

Apparently that fine wasn't enough of a deterrent for them, because they continued to hire undocumented workers. Why? Grendys' comment in the above-linked Chicago Tribune article explains the practice: maintaining a good labor force is very difficult and employee turnover is high.

They have also been targets of numerous allegations of egregious workplace conditions where Hispanic workers, particularly those without documentation were subjected to hostile and unsafe work conditions. Some of the proven allegations include denying workers bathroom breaks, sexually harassing and assaulting the female Hispanic workers, and harassing employees who attempted to unionize, including firing them and/or threatening them with ICE referrals.

One worker complained: "What I didn't like is they would yell at us and tell us we're good for nothing and we didn't know how to work, and sometimes they wouldn't even let us leave to go home when we were sick,"

The work is grueling enough, but Koch Foods supervisors required workers to "chop" the chickens at a rate of 42-chickens-a-minute. "That pace means that many workers make 18,000 cuts during their eight-hour shifts as they prepare breasts, wings, tenders and cutlets for restaurants and consumers. If they couldn't keep up, or got injured, they were fired."

Also, the EEOC found on several occasions that the workplace conditions were dangerous and violated numerous safety laws. This resulted in injuries such as amputations and even death.

Koch Foods, Inc. even had to pay one employee $1.9M for unsafe working conditions that led to the amputation of several fingers:…/32273-jury-rules-against-koch-f…

Here's one of the most egregious things Koch Foods, Inc. did. They not only knowingly hired undocumented workers (recruiting many from Texas border towns), they used their undocumented status to control and exploit them. A federal criminal investigation found that supervisors would often falsely tell undocumented workers that they'd received a "no-match" letter indicating a problem with their social security number, and for $700 the company could get them a new SSN.

And yet, it's not the company that gets charged criminally, it's the poor and vulnerable (and recruited!) undocumented workers:…/sher…/aGsNHxQCJQVJmnK522l0iL/#

These workers made about $7.80 an hour, but if they worked in a darkened room where thousands of live chickens poured down a chute where workers grabbed them and killed them, and then hung them on a hook (about 40 per minute), they got $1 more per hour. If they worked in the "chopping" room, they got 50 cents more per hour.

Now, here's the suspicious part. In 2015 workers started organizing a union and Koch Foods, Inc. did everything they could (including outright harassment and firing organizing employees) to stop the action:…/illegally-fired-workers-win-settlement…/

And in 2016, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Koch for paying all Hispanic females significantly less than males, while giving them more work, and then firing them for complaining:

But in 2018, Koch lost a huge EEOC case for the overt sexual harassment of Hispanic female workers (mostly undocumented). This amounted to sexual harassment and assault as male supervisors felt free to grope and verbally harass the most vulnerable workers in the plant:
Are you suspicious that the targeted raid was planned apparently right after they lost this large EEOC complaint? Me too.

Also, in case you're wondering, Koch Foods, Inc. doesn't just discriminate against Hispanic workers, the company discriminates against black farmers as well:…/how-a-top-chicken-company-cut-…#

And these seven companies aren't the only ones engaged in the practice of recruiting undocumented workers (because they are an easily manipulated and stable workforce). In 2001 Tyson Chicken executives were charged for recruiting undocumented workers from Mexico, and then providing them with fake identification (the workers thought their IDs were real, and were later charged criminally for having false identification papers.)

Despite clear-cut evidence, the case was dismissed in 2003, and no company has been criminally charged since (apparently it's bad for U.S. business).

It was later discovered Tyson executives paid bribes to government officials, prior to the charges being dropped. In response to the bribery the DOJ fined the company $5.2 million, but did not bring criminal charges.

Apparently Tyson execs didn't learn their lesson either, because they were back at it in 2010!:

This is nothing more than slavery. The more vulnerable and desperate the worker, the better. Recruit undocumented workers, give them fake identification, work them to the point of grave injury or death, and then cry "America First!" and fire them if they complain. Then INS/ICE can come in screaming "we're a land of laws!" and charge the undocumented workers with violating U.S. immigration laws, while letting the companies slide (better for the economy, right?). The companies can then start all over with a new crop of scared and vulnerable workers, and the problem of unionization and demands for better workplace conditions is gone..

But hey, I hope everyone (especially the anti-immigration folks out there) enjoys their cheap chicken wings...


In short, these reports help expose the state-sponsored terrorism that the Department of Homeland Security and this administration, are heaping on very vulnerable immigrant children and families who as workers, perform highly-dangerous jobs at very low pay in Mississippi’s chicken processing plants.  

And, as Dr. Martin correctly points out, this IS nothing more than slavery—and fascism, too, I might add, with our government working hand-in-hand with corporations to mete out monstrous cruelty against Latino immigrant families and children.

We must call this out, my friends.  These are not the good  people of Mississippi behind these atrocities.  The so-called "freedom" that Trump and the corporations want is to impoverish, enslave, and exploit hard-working, self-sacrificing people who are not in our country to do harm to others, but rather to work at great personal expense to them.  Sadly and tragically, THEY pay the price and NOT their greedy, heartless employers.

-Angela Valenzuela

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