|Due By (Pacific Time)||08/14/2017 12:00 am|
Said Al Mukhaini
Workers’ rights in meatpacking industry
Majority of the industries all around the World have evolved into entities that are not only consumer-oriented, but also provide a conducive and fairly safe working environment for its employees. Furthermore, the legal and social regimes of the day dictate that every person should be treated with proper respect and dignity. However, over the years, there have been industries that have failed to meet the legal and ethical requirements with regards to humane and just treatment of their employees. In particular, the meat packaging industry has come under fire over the past few years due to the fact that majority of the said plants do not adhere to the basic human rights provisions. In particular, the workers in such plants undergo gross violations of human rights. The said workers also do not have the opportunity to complain or negotiate for better terms of employment. It is therefore necessary for various solutions, such as the empowerment of unions and regulatory frameworks in order to keep the said manufacturers in check. The workers need people to look at the problems that they in the meat packaging industry go through, as well as provide possible solutions to the said issues.
Long Working Hours: Some Workers have been known to take extremely long shifts. Majority of white collar jobs within the United States are commonly referred to as “9 to 5” jobs, basically lasting a solid 8 hours. Majority of blue collar jobs, and in particular in the Meat Packaging plants, last for between two hours more to a massive 5 hours beyond the recommended time. In turn, the employees in the said plants are quite exhausted by the end of the shift (Human Rights Watch, 2004, p. 4), yet are not able to rest due to the fact that their next shift is expected to begin in a short while afterwards. To make it worse, majority of these employees are not properly compensated for the extra time that they are at work.
Difficult Working Conditions: Extremely High Targets at the Expense of the Employees. Majority of the said plants need to meet certain targets so that they can be able to supply their produce to the target markets as well as remain profitable. However, due to the fact that majority of the said plant cut down on the number of employees in order to ensure profitability due to less expenses, it becomes difficult to reach the said targets. Therefore, the employees are forced to work much harder in order to meet the targets or else they would lose their jobs (Government Accountability Office , 2005, pp. 7-9).
High Risk of Injury: Insufficient Safety Equipment. Still on the issue of saving on expenditure so as to remain profitable, the employers fail to purchase the required amount of safety equipment on the plant that would be vital in ensuring that the employees are properly protected. This means that in the long run, the employees are at risk of being injured in the line of duty. Majority of such injuries have been said to be preventable (Government Accountability Office , 2005, p. 9), and the said companies in charge of the plant are in a position to prevent the said unnecessary injuries from occurring.
Lack of an Avenue to Negotiate. The common practices in majority of industries is to have unions and organizations formed by the employees for the simple purpose of negotiating on behalf of the employees in instances where the employees feel that they are aggrieved of mistreated (Human Rights Watch, 2004, p. 5). Meat packaging organizations however have been known to discourage the formation of these unions, and would at times threaten the union leaders in order to avert strikes.
Intimidation: Employees Are Threatened If They Dare Complain. The meat packaging companies have been known to attempt to intimidate any employee who decides to speak out about the issues that they have faced within the employ of the said companies. This is especially common in instances of gender based violence and rape. Some employers have been reported to threaten the immigrant workers that they shall report them to the various authorities if they do not comply with the absurd and dehumanizing requirements of the various jobs that they are assigned (Cunningham-Parmeter, 2009, p. 1365). Furthermore, the said employers would go a step further and attempt to quash any form of union action from the employees by bringing in the immigration authorities to be able to attack and vet the employees. The employees would thus live in fear, at times even avoiding each other outside their work premises in order to avert any form of suspicion of collusion or union action.
Termination of employment if one gets injured in the line of duty. Several instances of employees losing their jobs due to the fact that they were injured in the course of carrying out their duties as employees of the said companies (Chávez, 2008, p. 22). This is especially disheartening due to the fact that the said plants do not provide proper protective clothing and equipment to prevent the said injuries. Additionally, majority of the said workers are afraid to take legal action against their employers who decide to fire them unceremoniously, as they believe that the immigration services shall catch up with them and deport them (De Genova, 2002, p. 422). Other employees are also not aware of the various legal channels that they can follow to press the relevant legal action against their employers and fight for their rights (Human Rights Watch, 2004, p. 9).
Creation of systems to ensure that the human rights laws are adhered to. In order to properly protect the workers in these plants, it is important for the various entities involved to create systems that can both be used as a channel to report any cases of inhumane treatment as well as control the employers. The unions should be empowered and properly protected from intimidation by the meat packaging companies, while the regulatory bodies should play a more active role in the protection of workers’ rights (Government Accountability Office , 2005, p. 11). A combination of the two systems would eventually lead to decorum in the industry, with the employers being controlled and forced to respect the rights of their employees, and the employees as well being able to act and protest in cases where they feel that they have been taken advantage of.
Amendment of the current laws to include stiffer penalties. Additionally, every state government should take it upon themselves to ensure that the laws regarding the protection of human rights are properly adhered to. The penalties for such offences should be significantly increased as a deterrent to any employers who may believe that they can treat their employees in an inhumane manner.
Educating the workers on their rights and the legal channels. Civic education is important as well, as majority of the workers do not understand the rights that they are accorded nor the various protection that they enjoy legally from any form of mistreatment or human rights violations.
To sum up, it is clear that the meat packaging plant owners have felt that they are above the law and can be able to treat their employees as they deem fit, often using intimidation and other crude means so as to ensure that they are both untouchable and cannot be held accountable. Changes have to be made in the regulation of such industries so as to protect the said workers.
Andreas, P. (2009). Border Games: Policing the US-Mexico Divide. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Chávez, L. (2008). The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Cunningham-Parmeter, K. (2009). Redefining the Rights of Undocumented Workers. American University Law Review, 1361-1415.
De Genova, N. (2002). Migrant “Illegality” and Deportability in Everyday Life. Annual review of ANthropology, 419-447.
Government Accountability Office . (2005). Workplace Safety and Health: Safety in the Meat and ultry Industry, while Improving, Could be Further Strengthened,. Report to the Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, U.S. Senate.
Human Rights Watch. (2004). Blood, Sweat and Fear: Workers’ Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants. New York: Human Rights Watch.
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