Daily Archives: August 13, 2019

Labor Headlines, Aug; 12, 2019

I am focusing on just one story for today’s Labor Headlines because I think it has such serious consequences for the working class struggle in the US.
This is the article I found on a website called PaydayReport.com that describes more about the ICE raids in Mississippi that took place on Wednesday,  Aug. 7. Now, of course, there was general outrage because this massive armed action by ICE took place on the heels of the racist massacre of Latinx people in El Paso and contributes both to the trauma experienced in immigrant communities  and the attacks on workers by bosses and government agencies.
The information is this article which i did not see in any of the corporate media reports provides a more complete explanation of why this horrific ICE raid requires an immediate and strong, united response by all worker organizations, unions especially.
So here’s the article from Payday Report.com
Last week, ICE carried out what is believed to be the largest immigration raid in decades when they detained 680 workers at seven poultry plants in Morton, Mississippi.
The workers, many of them members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW), were employed by a company called Koch Foods Inc, which employs 13,000 workers throughout the US. (Koch Foods INC has no connection or relation to the billionaire political donor Koch Brothers).
The UFCW, which represents workers at the plant, has been meeting with community groups and immigrants rights activists to mobilize community and legal support on behalf of the workers.
As buses full of poultry workers arrived pulled up to the Mississippi National Guard base at Flowood, Mississippi 70 family members and supporters families gathered shouting at the armed guards,  “Let Them Go! Let Them Go!” as workers were taken into the makeshift detention facility.
The detention suffered by immigrants is yet another abuse suffered by immigrant poultry workers employed by Koch Foods Inc in Morton, Mississippi.
In 2018, following a nearly eight-year-long legal battle, Koch Foods Inc. settled a $3.5 million brought by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Koch Food Inc at the plant. The lawsuit alleged that Koch Foods Inc supervisors engaged in both racial and sexual harassment of Latina workers at its Morton, Mississippi plant.
The lawsuit brought by the EEOC against Koch Food Inc’s alleged “that supervisors touched and/or made sexually suggestive comments to female Hispanic employees, hit Hispanic employees and charged many of them money for normal everyday work activities.”
As part of its settlement, Koch Foods Inc. agreed to a three-year federal consent decree to change its discriminatory practices. As part of the consent decree, Koch Foods Inc. was forced to create a 24-hour-a-day bilingual hotline for workers to use to file complaints.
Many immigrants rights advocates have speculated that workers are targeted for raids after their facilities get investigated for worker abuse.
In June of 2018, ICE raided a unionized Fresh Mark meatpacking plant in Salem, Ohio; arresting 140 workers.
A week before the raid on a Fresh Mark’s Salem facility, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Fresh Mark $211,194 for three separate incidents in which proper guards for dangerous machinery were not in place. OSHA found that the lack of safety guards resulted in the death of an undocumented worker.
In December of 2017, Domingo Ramos, a 49-year-old undocumented worker from Guatemala, was killed in the plant when his foot was sucked into a rotating auger, ripping off his lower leg and leading to him bleeding to death.
Suspicious was also raised that workers complaining about working conditions in plants at the Southeastern Provision in Morristown, Tennesse led to a raid. The raid came after federal authorities were tipped off by a local bank that the owner of the plant may have been paying undocumented workers under the table.

While it’s unclear if the raids are being triggered by federal authorities responding to the mistreatment of workers, the overall effect of these raids has had a chilling effect on workers speaking out.
“These raids send a real signal to immigrant workers not to speak up, and we feel like these raids enable employers in the most dangerous industry to cut corners and violate labor standards,” said Debbie Berkowitz, who served as chief of staff of OSHA under Obama from 2009 to 2013 and now serves as the director of the worker health and safety program at the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

Here’s what i think the response from organized labor should be. An immediate convergence by leaders and rank and file members of the AFL-CIO, and Change to Win affiliates, and allies in national civil rights organizations, religious denominations, lawyers and others into Morton and the affected towns.
A declaration that everyone who was taken into ICE custody was a union member and would be defended.
A call for national protests at ICE offices and detention centers, appealing to worker and community solidarity.
A clear declaration that immigrants are workers, not criminals, and belong in our unions.
These workers at these plants in rural Mississippi fought to win a union just as previous immigrants organized and died for the 8 hour day and many of the other gains won over decades of struggle.
In my opinion, organized labor, all workers need to stand rock solid with them.  They, especially the women, challenged the company bosses over their sexist and racist policies and practices. They had courage.
 The union movement must display the same courage and put our collective strength in defending and supporting these and all workers under attack by the profit-driven corporations.
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