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

16-Year-Old Killed in Poultry Plant

Jul 23, 2023

Duvan Thomas Perez died on the night of July 14 after getting caught in the machine he was cleaning at the Mar-Jac Poultry processing plant in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

This plant is notoriously dangerous: in 2020, a worker died from an injury sustained at the plant. In 2021, a worker lost part of her index finger. OSHA found the company liable after the second incident—but the fine was just $11,000, much less than it would cost to make the machines safer.

16-year-old Perez was a middle school student who had migrated to the U.S. six years ago from Guatemala. While it is illegal for anyone under 18 to work in the meat packing industry because it is so dangerous, Mar-Jac Poultry management claimed they didn’t know how old he was, and avoided responsibility by using a staffing agency.

This is standard operating procedure for more and more of U.S. industry. Child migrants, especially from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, arrive here needing to work to live. Companies have taken advantage, hiring children to work in plants making breakfast cereal and auto parts, processing beef, pork and chicken, doing landscaping, and cleaning offices, restaurants and factories after hours. Like Mar-Jac Poultry, many of these companies use staffing agencies to avoid legal responsibility for putting children in harm’s way.

If these children stay in Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, their best possible outcome is even worse exploitation, in factories or plantations often owned by the same banks and corporations that exploit them in the U.S.

After all, the capitalist system will find a way to exploit any desperate group of people, children or adults, anywhere in the world.