The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported yesterday that a human rights group has looked closely at a major industry in one country and found safety conditions like those of a century ago, systematic disrespect for workers’ rights and widespread disregard of international labor standards. Yes, conditions for U.S. meatpacking workers are scandalous.
Human Rights Watch last week released a comprehensive study of the meatpacking and processing industry. It’s a damning report that shows the widespread effects on workers of constant corporate cost cutting, union busting and political irresponsibility.
Worse, as Human Rights Watch acknowledges, much of the picture was already well documented, both in official papers and previous studies. The Human Rights Watch report gives particular credit to the chilling portrayal of workplace conditions in meat plants provided a few years ago by Eric Schlosser in “Fast Food Nation.”
As the Human Rights Watch report, written by Lance Compa, and Schlosser both observe, conditions today sadly mirror those in Upton Sinclair’s classic work, “The Jungle.” Sinclair’s portrayal of meatpacking plants, which will reach its 100th anniversary next year, led to federal legislation that improved conditions for workers and made meat considerably safer for consumers.


Continue Reading The Jungle’s new century