The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Chicken Processing Factories:
Honor among Thieves

Aug 15, 2022

Management at the handful of companies employing nearly all the poultry processing workers in the country met secretly over 20 years to share how they kept pay and benefits low. This became public after federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit and consent decrees in Maryland on July 25.

Over 240,000 workers process poultry in the U.S., with wages averaging just over $15 an hour. Pay is lower on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Many of the workers with children qualify for food stamps, but need to rely on local charities anyway. Injury rates are very high. At one Maryland plant, federal safety officials in 2015 reported more than a third of the workers suffered carpal tunnel syndrome.

Meanwhile the companies, like Cargill, Sanderson Farms, and Wayne Farms, make profits well over four billion dollars a year.

It’s nothing new for bosses like these to share techniques for exploiting workers. And it’s nothing new for the government to pretend to make a big fuss, while making sure exploitation rolls along smoothly. The consent decrees would have the companies pay into a fund that supposedly will repay the workers what they lost because of the bosses’ conspiring. But the award money is as little as $400 per worker!

This shows what we’re up against. Employers get together to trade ideas and plan … workers need to do so too!