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

U.S. Slaughterhouses Exploit Child Labor

Dec 5, 2022

In its mad chase after profits, a major food-processing services company is using children, ranging in age from 13 to 17, to clean slaughterhouse floors and operate hazardous equipment, including power-driven grinders and bone-cutting saws. The children work the “graveyard” shift without proper training on equipment or the hazardous chemicals they are required to use.

Recent reports have exposed the barbaric workplace practices of Packers Sanitation Service, Inc, or PSSI. The company, owned by Blackstone Inc, a huge multi-billion-dollar investment firm, has 17,000 employees and cleans 700 food processing plants nationwide.

On-going investigations reveal that a minimum of 31 children at three facilities in Nebraska and Minnesota are suffering this abuse. However, investigators say they now expect at least 400 other sites are using child workers in a similar manner.

Several of the children were injured in various ways while on the job. The most common were chemical burns. A 13-year-old child received the most serious chemical burns.

In interviews, the children said their shifts start at 11 pm and end at 5, 6, or 7 am. Some work 6 or 7 days per week. Some go directly to school after their shift while fatigued from overwork and fall asleep during class, if they are able to show up in school at all.

As these horrific reports surfaced, PSSI moved quickly to thwart the collection of evidence. Managers attempted to hide and destroy documents, including work-related text messages and accident reports. Investigation interviews with child employees were obstructed and the children were intimidated by management while they were in progress.

Despite a growing mountain of evidence, PSSI cynically denies that it hires children, and said it was "surprised" by the reports because it has a corporate “ethics policy” that would exclude such hiring of children. They say that if children are working at their facilities, it’s because of "rogue individuals," guilty of fraud or identity theft. Thus, callously pointing the finger of blame at the abused children themselves!

PSSI has a long history of dangerous work practices and horrendous working conditions. A 2017 study found that PSSI had some of the worst rates of workplace injuries in the country. A 2022 report of a watchdog group reported that since 2018 the company was investigated for four employee amputations and three deaths, including one decapitation. The report says: "PSSI stood out as a particularly dangerous workplace with one of the highest numbers of serious injury reports compared to its relatively small number of employees."

But despite the horrific working conditions uncovered over the years and federal and state laws that supposedly protect workers from workplace hazards and abuse, the greedy vultures at PSSI continued and expanded its abusive practices to further maximize corporate profits. Token financial penalties imposed on the company by federal or state agencies, a mere slap on the wrist, only served to embolden PSSI to continue down its path of abuse.

Regardless of which capitalist party controls these government agencies, they will do nothing that significantly impedes the profit objectives of the corporate bosses they serve. That is their first priority.