By Diane Novak and Jeremy Gantz
Working In These Times
They give you ice, they give you hot water, they sell you pills and tell you that you have to learn to live with pain. —Anonymous Nebraska meatpacking worker describing an employer.
More than one-hundred years after The Jungle—Upton Sinclair’s seminal expose of America’s slaughterhouses— was published, meatpacking remains one of the country’s most dangerous lines of work. Injury rates in the industry are more than double that of U.S. manufacturing overall, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in 2005 that official data on worker injuries probably undercounts the real number of injuries.
Nearly five years since that GAO report, little seems to have changed in the industry—at least in Nebraska, the subject of a startling new report released by Nebraska Appleseed.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest law center organization surveyed 455 people working in the state’s meatpacking industry—which produces one out of every four steaks and hamburgers in the United States—to understand what, if anything, has changed since the Meatpacking Industry Workers Bill of Rights became law ten years ago in Omaha.
The answer appears to be: not much.
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