The meatpacking industry has made a lot of progress on worker safety since publication of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” in 1906, but some things remain the same: the work is mostly done by immigrants and refugees; they suffer high rates of injuries and even, sometimes death; and the government lags in oversight.
An attempted crackdown on minimum wage and child labor violations at berry farms in the Pacific Northwest has sparked a backlash that threatens one of the U.S. Labor Department’s most potent tools for enforcing protections for farm workers.
ByClaire Everett/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Sexual assault and harassment is a common problem when it comes to migrant farm workers. Attorney Karla Altmayer has worked to fight sexual assault in the workplace since 2010. Recently, she held a workshop in Kankakee, Ill., for migrant workers.
The Illinois Soybean Association is among several industries to oppose tighter regulations of pesticide protections for farm workers. The group – which represents 45,000 soybean producers in the state – filed a letter last week as part of a public comment period on proposed updates to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard.
Each summer, hundreds of seasonal workers leave their homes in Texas and Mexico and travel more than 1,000 miles north to work in the corn fields of central Illinois. Many of those hundreds make their way to Rantoul, a village of about 13,000 people in Champaign County and the summer home of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign football team’s training sessions. As the sessions get underway in mid-August, the hundreds of migrant workers wrap up the first wave of agriculture work in nearby corn fields.
New technologies could help protect farmers, who work in the most deadly occupation in Iowa. Farm fatalities represent more than 30 percent of all occupational fatalities in the state, according to data from the Iowa Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program. Lauren Mills from Iowa Watch takes a look at new devices.
Grain bins, a common sight for anyone traveling through Iowa and other corn belt states, are a source of contention for agriculture safety specialists. Lack of research means specialists are unable to provide consistent advice to farmers about working in the storage bins. The safety experts are “dropping the ball,” said LaMar Grafft, a rural health and safety specialist.