Ohio Immigration Raids Will Deter Workers From Speaking Up Against Dangerous Conditions

Three Workers Maimed or Killed in Targeted Plants in Last Six Months

Following is a statement by Christine Owens, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project:

“The Trump administration’s most recent immigration raids this week, targeting Fresh Mark meat-processing plants in Ohio, send a message to immigrant workers: Be intimidated. Be too afraid of raids and deportation to speak up about hazardous workplace conditions. These raids enable employers in the most dangerous industries to cut corners and freely violate labor standards—undercutting all law-abiding businesses.

“Employees of Fresh Mark’s meatpacking plants have experienced conditions and dangers that no worker anywhere should have to endure. In the last six months, one worker was killed in Fresh Mark’s Canton plant, and two suffered serious amputations. All three incidents are being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This level of disregard for workers’ lives and safety is unheard of, even in the notoriously dangerous meatpacking industry. Previous targets of this administration’s worksite immigration raids have engaged in similarly egregious conduct that undercuts labor standards for all workers.[1]

“But rather than hold employers accountable for violating basic worker protections simply to inflate profits and undercut competitors, this administration has chosen to target and arrest the workers. This strategy can only drive other immigrant workers subjected to substandard conditions further into the shadows and further deteriorate working conditions across already low-wage industries across this country.

“Trump’s message resounds to all workers, regardless of where you were born: We will not protect you. Although yesterday’s raid at Fresh Mark’s meatpacking plants resulted in the arrest of more than 140 workers, 800 other Fresh Mark employees remain. They will face the repercussions of this raid, witness the trauma being inflicted on this community, and continue to work for an employer that treats its workers like disposable commodities.

“Indeed, the Trump administration shows no desire to follow through on its promise to protect American workers and jobs. Instead, this administration continues to side, again and again, with big business against low-wage workers—for example, by scrapping Obama-era rules that would have made millions more workers eligible for overtime pay and would have ensured that government contractors follow employment laws. The president also commuted the sentence of the employer in the Postville, Iowa raid, where the employer owed $10 million in back wages, had violated child labor laws, and tolerated sexual assault of female employees on the premises.

“Despite his rhetoric, workers and others in this country should see the Trump administration’s workplace immigration raids and see powerful evidence that his administration has no intention of protecting or advancing the needs of workers.”

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Endnotes

[1] At a Tennessee meatpacking plant where immigration agents arrested dozens of workers in April, following a community outcry and complains filed by worker advocates, the U.S. Department of Labor is investigating charges of wage theft, violations of child labor laws, and retaliation against workers who spoke out about working conditions. Tennessee OSHA is investigating violations of federal health and safety laws.

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