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July 10, 2003

Don't you feel Safer?

The Bush administration working for you:

The Department of Agriculture began a new inspection system last fall and reduced the percentage of meat crossing the border that is inspected to 6 percent from 17 percent, department records show...

With less meat inspected, the amount of meat rejected has dropped to 712,744 pounds from 2.1 million pounds, according to the agriculture agency's last two quarterly reports.

But then, this just leaves consumers where workers have been for decades-- left at the mercy of an industry that prefers profits to safety for either its workers or consumers. Just check out this excerpt from Fast Food Nation:
Some of the most dangerous jobs in meatpacking today are performed by the late-night cleaning crews. A large proportion of these workers are illegal immigrants. They are considered "independent contractors," employed not by the meatpacking firms but by sanitation companies. They earn hourly wages that are about one-third lower than those of regular production employees. And their work is so hard and so horrendous that words seem inadequate to describe it. The men and women who now dean the nation's slaughterhouses may arguably have the worst job in the United States. "It takes a really dedicated person," a former member of a cleaning crew told me, "or a really desperate person to get the job done."
With too few inspectors, the government relies on statistics from the industry itself. For what a fraud that is...:
At the IBP beef plant in Dakota City, Nebraska, for example, the company kept two sets of injury logs: one of them recording every injury and illness at the slaughterhouse, the other provided to visiting OSHA inspectors and researchers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During a three-month period in 1985, the first log recorded 1,800 injuries and illnesses at the plant. The OSHA log recorded only 160-a discrepancy of more than 1,000 percent.
With fewer inspections, new union-busting, more use of illegal workers afraid to blow the whistle-- the problem is probably worse today than in the 1980s. But no one is investigating, so the abuses go on and on.

Posted by Nathan at July 10, 2003 09:32 AM