Health and Wellness

Open thread for night owls. 'Prison Labor on the Kill Line’

Michelle Chen at The Nation writes—Prison Labor on the ‘Kill Line’:

Frank Dwayne Ellington showed up at an Alabama chicken factory last October for his weekend shift, expecting to work off another day of his life sentence. As one of the Alabama inmates selected to work in a prison-labor program known as work-release, Ellington might have considered himself lucky to land a job that allowed him to escape the rough, often violent conditions behind bars. He was assigned to a cleaning position at a plant run by the major poultry company Koch Foods. But when a machine he was cleaning ensnared his arm, it pulled him into the machine and killed him on the spot.

It’s not clear why Ellington reached in to clean the “sunflower-wheel” processing machine while it was still on, but he may have been chasing the clock. His factory runs on speed and volume, with production targets typically reaching about 140 carcasses per minute. Injury is extremely common, and for the prison workforce, wide legal loopholes make them one of the country’s most vulnerable workforces.

In an investigation on the use of prison labor in the Alabama poultry industry, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) estimates that in at least seven states, “dozens of poultry companies” have taken advantage of the prison workforce by hiring about 600 people in recent years. State records obtained by the SPLC indicate that hundreds more inmates are employed in other private-sector jobs through a patchwork of contracts and tax breaks.

Work-release employees are generally entitled to some basic health and safety protections on the job, but industry conditions are brutal for all poultry workers. According to federal data, poultry-processing plants like Ashland see nearly twice the national average rate of injury for the general workforce. Workplace-related illness is roughly six times the national average, ranging from repetitive-stress injuries to respiratory problems from chemical exposure. […]

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BLAST FROM THE PAST

On this date at Daily Kos in 2008—Big Business Goes After Unions to Defeat Democrats:

As we all know, this November brings major opportunities for Senate pick-ups. And if we get enough Democrats in the Senate, there’s a lot of legislation we might be able to get passed that seemed like pipe dreams just two years ago. That’s precisely one of the reasons some business groups will be fighting tooth and nail to prevent Democrats from picking up Senate seats.

The Employee Free Choice Act is one of the most important such bills — and practically every competitive Senate race is being targeted by anti-union groups with millions of dollars in funding from undisclosed sources:

The two groups, which will not disclose the sources of money behind their campaigns, may spend as much as a combined $50 million by November. The extent of the media effort has sent Democrats scrambling for ways to respond to what they call misleading advertisements without getting thrown off their own message. Party leaders are also sharply critical of the secrecy behind the spending.

“The fact that these expenditures are not only so large but are undisclosed is extremely troubling,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who said the groups “are trying to influence the elections with millions of dollars that the public can’t trace.”

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show: Anarchy rules! Russian trolls fueled the social media vaccine “debate” too. (A “debate” Trump participated in, curiously enough.) The National Enquirer arm of the Cohen case breaks wide open. The CNN commentators legally obligated not to be honest.

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