More needed for protection

Photo credit: Earl Dotter/Oxfam America

From The Wilkes Journal-Patriot:

by Hunter Ogletree

Before the Wilkesboro Town Council considers investing taxpayer dollars in the expansion of the Tyson Foods plant, we should require that Tyson do more to protect its workers. It’s time to face some hard realities about the dangers of working inside poultry processing plants.

While Tyson refers to its rigorous “Code of Conduct,” poultry workers in Wilkesboro tell our worker center the reality is far different.

They report arduous conditions, low pay and a repressive atmosphere that discourages them from speaking out.

By its nature, the work is hazardous. The plant is cold, humid, noisy and slippery. Machines are fast, tools are sharp and the chemicals include ammonia, chlorine, paracetic acid and carbon dioxide.

Workers in that industry do the same motions thousands of time each day, on a line that runs at breakneck speed. Workers sustain high rates of illness and injury.

They suffer occupational illnesses at five times the national average, carpal tunnel syndrome at seven times average and amputations at three times.

In 2015 and the beginning of 2016, Tyson reported 51 amputations or hospitalizations to OSHA. Among all companies in the U.S., Tyson reported the fourth highest number of these serious incidents.

The plants can do much more to minimize dangers and adequate medical care can be offered when workers are injured. Instead, many workers report that medical personnel offer minimal care, and routinely deny permission to see outside doctors.

Before the town council moves to help Tyson expand, we need to hold them accountable for the way the workforce is treated - and demand they do better.

Read more from the Wilkes Journal-Patriot.