Massive Pork Producer Accused of Ignoring Worker Injuries

According to seven former employees and a current one, Seaboard Foods—the second-largest pork producer in the United States—has been ignoring worker injuries

Meatpacking plants are required to report any injuries that need treatment above basic first aid to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The more injuries reported, the more scrutiny a company will face—something meatpacking companies are desperate to avoid. UFCW Local 2, the union representing Seaboard’s workers, suspects that injuries are being underreported.

According to Seaboard employees, the company repeatedly ignores doctors’ notes and forces staff to work through injuries. One injured Seaboard employee was given ice and painkillers and sent back to the production floor, only to discover later he had a fractured vertebra and an elbow contusion. Another was given a hand massage and sent back to work, later learning she had sprained her wrist. After returning with a doctor’s note requesting that she be given a less physically demanding job, she was asked to lift even heavier portions of meat than before. And an employee suffering from an inflamed disc and a strained muscle was not given time off to recover—despite having a doctor’s note. 

Investigate Midwest found that Seaboard’s policies encouraged supervisors to keep their subordinates working despite injuries. According to a former supervisor, injured workers who are off work or transferred to another area may not be replaced, which makes the job harder for the workers and supervisors on duty. Injuries can lead to low retention rates, which endanger a supervisor’s position. Kristen Kinsella, a former supervisor, said:

It wasn’t in their interest to [report injuries]. If your retention rate sucks, they’re not going to give you a new hire, so you’re stuck with less people. So you’ve got to try and keep what you have.

While slaughtering animals is inherently cruel, people employed to do it face serious risks and have some of the highest injury rates of any profession. Serious injuries include dismemberment, fractured fingers, burns, and head trauma. It stands to reason that the meat industry—which has a history of not caring about its workers—would want to hide just how many serious injuries occur among its workers across the country.

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