Final Paper.alt

Final Paper.alt - Hannah Fisher Ted Mouw December 8, 2006...

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Hannah Fisher Ted Mouw December 8, 2006 Sociology 058 001 Treatment of Immigrants in the Poultry Industry In America, poultry is the most purchased meat product, selling more than a hundred pounds per American each year. With this said, poultry is obviously the current meat of choice in America (America’s Poultry Industry, par.1). Over the past two decades, the industry has seen tremendous monetary improvements in its sales of broiler meat, growing from $200 million in 1985 to an incredible $1.9 billion in 1997 (Guthey, 62). With this drastic increase in sales came little increase in the number of workers employed for processing by the industry, with the number remaining around 300,000 (Lobb, par. 1) While some claim this was due to increased mechanization, others say that while this new technology is available, the majority of work is still done by workers on the disassembly line. (Guthey, 62). This is only one of the many arguments that those who feel the poultry processing industry is exploiting its workers argue in an attempt to prove their point. What makes the topic even more sensitive is that the vast majority of workers on the line are immigrants. Currently, approximately three-fourths of poultry plant laborers are from Latin America and a large percentage of the other workers are from countries in Southeast Asia (Striffler, 112). This paper will attempt to determine whether the poultry industry truly is exploiting their predominantly immigrant workforce by looking at the definition of exploitation, the opinion of immigrant workers, the differences between companies, and other important factors.
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Work in the poultry processing industry is notoriously taxing on the body of the workers, and has the potential to cause “cuts or lacerations, repetitive motion disorders, slips and falls, exposure to cold and wet climates, exposure to dust, dermatitis, exposure to chemicals, and noise exposure” (Poultry Processing, 2). It is for these reasons and more that outsiders to the business feel that the industry is exploiting its primarily immigrant workers. As tempting as it may be to simply agree with what seems like the majority, it is necessary to first take a closer look at what exploitation actually is in order to come to any conclusions. There are two types of exploitation: economic exploitation and moral exploitation. The first type of exploitation, economic exploitation, deals with the workers being taken advantage of financially and being paid either less than the market wage or less than the marginal profit or productivity. According to Paul Krugman, former member of the Council of Economic Advisers and current professor at Princeton, when cheap labor is used in poor countries, it allows economic growth to occur. When this happens, there are noticeable improvements in the standards of living and gradually the average wages begin to rival that of a teenage McDonald’s employee (Praise of Cheap Labor, par.10). In the poultry industry, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the average
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This note was uploaded on 03/26/2008 for the course SOCI 058 taught by Professor Mouw during the Fall '06 term at UNC.

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Final Paper.alt - Hannah Fisher Ted Mouw December 8, 2006...

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