When I read that 1,100 jobs were going to Sioux City, Iowa a part of me breathed a sigh of relief because any job creation in Iowa or any state for that matter, has to be better than no job creation.
Then I read the $264 million investment was for a pork processing plant and a part of me cringed. These are not Silicon Valley types of jobs, no, these are the antithesis of working at Google, Apple or Facebook.
Hot Tips For Landing Jobs at Google, Apple and Facebook: How to get a job in tech! by Lauren Drell
In the early 80’s I practiced law in Black Hawk County where Rath Packing and IBP operated plants. It seemed like We handled workers’ compensation cases out of those plants by the truckload. I got to know many of the workers and their jobs. The work of a meat packer is difficult, but honest and the pay used to be better than it seems like it was in the 90’s and 2000’s over in the Perry and Ottumwa plants. Today I can’t say for sure how the pay grade compares to other lines of work. Back then I knew in Perry’s meat packing plants the highest rate of pay seemed to top out at around $8.00 per hour. I am not sure how anyone raises a family on $8.00 per hour; especially knowing there is no time to work a second job. The work can chew workers up, grind on their nerves and tendons until finally the workers suffer from cumulative types of injuries and they end up themselves going under the surgeon’s knife or else fired and sent packing.
I used to hear stories of IBP sending a representative into the bars in Mexico with promises of $10 per hour work, then handing out free bus tickets to Iowa. Once here the workers who suffered debilitating injuries found out the free bus ride was only a one-way ticket, leaving the injured worker to figure out how to get home to Mexico. It has been so long since our office has seen a carpal tunnel case that I can not say if this practice persists.
The cases we handled out of Wapello County seemed better put together in terms of how the workers were treated. I’m not sure why, but the workers liked their jobs better than the Perry workers did. Here are the injuries we normally see as workers' compensation lawyers.
Packing House Injuries
- Lacerations (hands, fingers and arms)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (wrists)
- Cubital Tunnel Syndrome (elbows)
- Back Injuries – Soft tissue (mostly strains)
- Back Injuries – Disc ruptures (normally result in disc surgery)
- Thoraic Outlet Syndrome – See this more with hairdressers in beauty shops (thoracic nerve exiting the upper ribs)
- Blunt Force Trauma – (Head, neck, torso, shoulders.
- Mental fatigue
- Rotator cuff tears (shoulders)
Meatpacking in the U.S.: Still a "Jungle" Out There?, PBS December 15, 2006
Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, 1906
The Jungle is a novel written by journalist Upton Sinclair. Sinclair wrote the novel with the intention of portraying the life of the immigrant in the United States, but readers were more concerned with the large portion of the book pertaining to the corruption of the American meatpacking industry during the early 20th century, and the book is now often interpreted and taught as a journalist's exposure of the poor health conditions in this industry. The novel depicts in harsh tones poverty, absence of social programs, unpleasant living and working conditions, and hopelessness prevalent among the working class, which is contrasted with the deeply-rooted corruption on the part of those in power. Sinclair's observations of the state of turn-of-the-twentieth-century labor were placed front and center for the American public to see, suggesting that something needed to be changed to get rid of American wage slavery.
This was a 3-year retrospective cohort study of traumatic injuries in a midwestern pork meatpacking plant. Based on n = 5410 workers, this was a diverse workforce: Caucasian (56.6%), Hispanic (38.9%), African American (2.7%), Asian (1.1%) and Native American (0.8%). There were n = 1655 employees with traumatic injuries during this period. At 6 months of employment, the probability of injury was 33% in the harvest workers who were responsible for slaughter operations. The overall incidence injury rate was 22.76 per 100 full-time employees per year. Women experienced a higher incidence for injury than men. The risk ratio (RR) for traumatic injury was significantly lower in Hispanic workers compared to Caucasians (RR = 0.54, 95% CI = 0.49-0.60) and nonsignificantly higher in African American and Native American workers after adjusting for age, gender, work section assignment, and experience (RR = 1.33, 95% CI = 1.21-1.47). These findings suggest that either Hispanics are very safe employees or they underreport injuries. We make the case for the latter in the discussion.
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Am J Ind Med. 2005 May;47(5):403-10.
Laceration injuries among workers at meat packing plants.
BACKGROUND: Employees in meat packing experience one of the highest occupational laceration injury rates in the US.
METHOD: A retrospective study was conducted using OSHA 200 injury and illness logs and First Reports of Injury from two large US meat packing plants from 1998 to 2000. The total workers observed during the study period ranged between 2,449 and 2,682 per year.
RESULTS: Laceration injury incidence rates in Plant 1 were 14.0 injuries per 200,000 person hours (per 100 workers per year) in 1998, 11.5 in 1999, and 8.3 in 2000, whereas in Plant 2 the overall incidence rate was 3.7 in 1998, 4.8 in 1999, and 3.0 in 2000. Laceration injury rates in Plant 2 were close to the expected OSHA recordable laceration injury rate in 1999 (3.0 per 100 workers per year), but Plant 1 was considerably higher. Plant 1 had a kill support department, and removed animal hides whereas Plant 2 did not. Handheld non-powered tools were the most common contact objects whereas the slaughter department had the highest number of injuries. Finger injuries from a handheld non-powered tool were the most frequent.
CONCLUSIONS: Findings confirm the high rate of injury from laceration in this industry and indicate hazard varies across time into shift, task being performed, and type of tool being used.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
J Occup Environ Med. 2003 Aug;45(8):848-56.
Hand lacerations and job design characteristics in line-paced assembly.
This study investigated risk factors for laceration injuries among workers employed in line-paced manufacturing assembly operations. Most lacerations (76% of 576) occurred on the hands and fingers (grouped as "hand" lacerations). On average, 37% of surveyed workers reported at least one laceration to the hand in the preceding year, resulting in an overall hand laceration rate of 83 per 100 workers per year. An inverse relationship was found between level of job routinization and hand lacerations, with progressively higher rates of hand lacerations occurring among workers assigned to less routine (more variable) work patterns. Fabricated metal parts handling and job variability may be related to increased risk of hand lacerations in line-paced work environments where personal protective equipment is the primary strategy to control exposure to sharp objects.
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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