Over the last four decades, many hundreds of employees have been killed or seriously injured without follow-up investigations by OSHA because small farms are exempt from agency scrutiny.
What’s more, because the exemption applies to all OSHA activities, agency inspectors also are barred from checking for hazards before injuries or deaths occur, and from responding to employee complaints about unsafe conditions.
For the second time in recent months, the U.S. Department of Labor has extracted penalties from a California farm business blamed for the deadly crash of a vehicle transporting migrant field workers to their jobs.
Having continued insurance for health care from job to job is one of many unique health challenges migrant farmworkers face because of the workers’ frequent movement from state to state without portable health insurance, which leads to a lack of insurance coverage, inconsistent professional medical care and confusion about health care services in the area where they are working.
ByChristopher Walljasper/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Animal Slaughtering and processing operations make up a large portion of the total jobs available in rural America, meaning these jobs are some of the best options for some Americans where steady, full-time work can be scarce. While these jobs are available across the country, the largest employers operate facilities with thousands of employees in rural areas, what the BLS refers to as “nonmetropolitan areas.”
The following maps and graphics offer some insights into where these jobs are located and how much workers are paid in those parts of the country.
Repetitive motion injuries, amputations and cuts continue to be common dangers that workers in the meat processing industry face, according to a Government Accountability Office report released this month. The GAO also found workers suffer respiratory illnesses from peracetic acid – an antimicrobial chemical – sprayed on meat in processing facilities. In addition, investigators from GAO identified a lack of bathroom access as a major concern among workers – one that workers were afraid to mention to federal labor inspectors at plants for fear of retribution from their employer. The report reviewed the government’s efforts – specifically the Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) – to protect the health and safety of workers in the nation’s animal slaughtering and processing industry, one of the most hazardous industries in the U.S.
Approximately 72 workers were interviewed in Arkansas, Delaware, Nebraska, North Carolina and Virginia. Workers in three of those states said they had suffered negative health effects, such as kidney problems, from delayed or denied bathroom breaks.
Like many in Minnesota’s Hmong-American community, Pakou Hang comes from a family of farmers. “Even when we very young, starting from elementary school, we were helping our parents out in the field,” she said. “So it’s been a big part of our lives and we have that background.”
Since 2001, the former hospital on Nightingale Court in Rantoul, Ilinois housed as many as 450 migrant farmworkers and their families to work in the fields in central Illinois.
But this year, its owner - Unique Storage Inc. - did not submit a migrant labor camp application for the site, known as Nightingale, according to the state public health department. Instead, housing for the farmworkers was moved elsewhere.
Fair Warning | As an attorney representing California Central Valley farmers and labor contractors who rely heavily on undocumented workers, Anthony Raimondo has become widely known for performing a sort of magic trick. He can sometimes make legal complaints against his clients – and the people who file them – disappear.