Saturday, September 8, 2012

Worker issues at the political conventions, and a poultry giant boasts earnings while its workers protest conditions

Conventions wrap up, and working folks look ahead to November

The Democratic and Republican conventions are now behind us, and it’s on to the last leg of the presidential election.

Union-bashing was a prevalent theme at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enjoyed superstar status for their attacks on public sector unions.

Meanwhile, United Auto Workers members wore their membership literally on their sleeves and applauded UAW President Bob King during a prime-time speech on the convention floor.  Too bad, the pundits on the supposedly pro-labor MSNBC television network chatted on air during most of King’s speech.

Outside the conventional hall, the Southern Workers Assembly brought attention to the plight of workers in the South, including those in “right-to-work” North Carolina where the convention took place.

I enjoyed the speeches at the convention from President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and even former President Bill Clinton (I’m not a big fan of his. I’m still remembering his gutting of the Glass-Steagal Act, setting loose the financial speculators who nearly wrecked our economy).

Still, where were the responses to the anti-union attacks from the Republicans? I didn't hear many. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick tipped his hat to the teacher unions, and there was a lot of talk all around about auto workers and the auto industry that Obama helped save.

I would have liked more clear and resolute statements of support of workers’ right to organize and workers’ rights in general.

Poultry giant reporting revenue gains and growth plans as workers protest conditions

Sanderson Farms Inc., the same poultry giant where workers at its Hazelhurst, Miss., plant are protesting horrible working conditions, has just posted a 22 percent jump in revenue with $28.7 million in net income for the third quarter of the current fiscal year.

The Laurel, Miss.-based poultry company also recently announced plans to build a new plant in Nash County, North Carolina, that will employ 1,100 workers.

Area residents and officials had filed a lawsuit to try to prevent Sanderson from building the plant, but the North Carolina Court of Appeals tossed out the lawsuit last month. Residents are concerned about environmental hazards posed by the plant.

At the Hazelhurst, Miss., plant, officials with the Laborers International Union of North America Local 693 held a recent press conference to highlight the poor working conditions there.

The 700 workers at the plant have to do their jobs in 100-degree-plus temperatures with minimal breaks, poor air-conditioning, and unsanitary bathrooms, Local 693 representatives said. They showed large photographs showing worker injuries as a result of the high production demands at the plant.

Union representatives said the plant processes 200,000 chickens every day, and worker injuries are common.

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