Immigrant Workers vs. Tyson: Unionizing Iowa Meatpacking– The Monday AM Quickie 5/1/23

Workers of the world, unite! It’s May Day folks. I hope you’re celebrating by building collective power with your coworkers.- Robert

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Immigrant Workers Attempt to Unionize Iowa Meatpacking Plants

In These Times, issued a 2-part report last week detailing a groundbreaking unionization effort driven by horrid working conditions at two meatpacking facilities in Iowa, a Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Columbus Junction and a Turkey Growers Cooperative plant in West Liberty. Interviews with 20 workers in the plants corroborate the atrocious reputation of safety and working conditions of the meatpacking industry.

In These Times heard complaints ranging from understaffing to abusive supervisors to punitive attendance policies. Meatpacking workers say a union would also address the breakneck pace of the line and the unremitting production pressures, which they say make injuries all but certain. They lift heavy turkey carcasses onto hooks at West Liberty and cut into pork limbs with dull knives at Tyson. Workers say they have soiled themselves trying to keep the line going by skipping bathroom breaks and suffered cuts and stab wounds from wielding knives elbow-to-elbow.

The union drive, if successful, would cover 2,000 workers between the two plants, the largest unionization effort in the meatpacking industry since 2012. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 431 and community organization “Escucha Mi Voz” are collaborating on the campaign. Their partnership hints at the potential power unleashed through such collaborations:

Escucha also surveyed workers about their working conditions. According to Escucha, a survey of 927 workers at Tyson and 426 workers at West Liberty Foods revealed that more than 85 percent wanted a union.
A typical workplace union campaign would take years to compile such detailed information, but Escucha offered UFCW Local 431 access to the survey results and invited union staff to table the relief clinics where Escucha was distributing the aid in late December 2022 and early January 2023. Since, worker-organizers with Escucha have been meeting at churches and going door-to-door talking with meatpackers about pandemic relief and workers’ rights.

If any industry needs a strong union effort, it’s meatpacking. In February, the Department of Labor fined one of the largest food sanitation companies $1.5 million for using children to clean meatpacking facilities. This, just one story out of a damning series of exposés from the New York Times that showed prevalent use of undocumented minors in dangerous industries such as meatpacking. And lest we forget, managers at another Iowa Tyson plant bet on which of their workers would get sick from COVID-19 because of the companies’ reckless safety conditions.

Chomksy, CIA Director, Goldman Lawyer Met With Epstein

Prominent figures such as Chomsky, chief spy William Burns, top current lawyer for Goldman Sachs and Obama admin alum Kathryn Ruemmler, and president of Bard College Leon Botstein visited sex criminal and trafficker Jefferey Epstein. These meetings were long after convictions and accusations of his abuse of minors were public knowledge, according documents reviewed the Wall Street Journal, which included Epstein's personal emails and schedules.

Burns met Epstein in 2014 when he was deputy secretary of state under Obama. A CIA spokesperson said that he had been seeking financial advice from Epstein. That doesn’t pass the smell test to me, but the CIA is not known for its transparency.

Chomsky’s response to the Journal was more confrontational, “First response is that it is none of your business. Or anyone’s. Second is that I knew him and we met occasionally.” Chomsky confirmed he met with Epstein and former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak in 2015 to discuss the Israeli-Palestian conflict. Epstein also planned a flight with Chomsky and his wife for dinner with Woody Allen and his wife, Soon-Yi Previn. When questioned on this dinner, Chomsky told the Journal he was “unaware of the principle that requires I inform you about an evening with a great artist.” As someone who's admired Chomsky for a long time, this sucks.

Scalia Law (a.k.a. ASSLaw) Gains Influence

Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, formerly known as the Antonin Scalia School of Law (ASSLaw) before the cowards changed it, has been slowly adding conservative Supreme Court faculty like Thanos collecting infinity stones; Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh are all among its faculty. Since receiving a $30 million donation from Federalist Society godfather Leonard Leo, the law school has been trying to become “a Yale or Harvard of conservative legal scholarship and influence,” according to the New York Times (an odd framing since these schools have no problem churning out right wing ideologues themselves, just look at the current Supreme Court).

Scalia Law seems to be giving every possible amenity it can legally give to the justices, including sending them to teach in Europe or at seaside resorts. The three justices may be violating ethics rules by using court staff to coordinate academic duties, but fat chance they ever get sanctioned for that when more blatant corruption goes unaddressed.

There is, of course, huge money to be made from being a law school with close relationships to conservative Supreme Court Justices, who sometimes bring their liberal pals along. A banquet featuring the three faculty judges and RBJ drew a $100,000 donation from Koch Industries. Justices Kagan and Sotomayor have also participated in the school's events.


  • Texas Gunman Still At Large Francisco Oropeza, 38, allegedly executed five of his neighbors with an AR-15 style weapon, including an 8-year-old boy, after they had asked him to stop shooting his guns late at night so their children could sleep. via AP.
  • Montana Bans Gender-Affirming Care for Minors The state became the latest of 15 states to institute such a ban. Transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr was censured and forbidden from speaking on the House floor for condemning the bill. via AP.
  • FDIC Seeks Buyer for First Republic The move is a step towards the regulatory taking over the bank. via FT.
  • State Legislatures Push Age Verification for Social Media and Adult Sites Some states are requiring ID verification and parental consent to access sites like P*rnhub (trying not to get this filtered out of your inbox) and TikTok. via New York Times.
  • Feds Lift Some Hiring Restrictions For Past Drug Use Later this year, the Biden administration is expected to stop delving deeply into past drug histories in an attempt to attract a younger cohort of federal employers. via the New York Times.



That’s how many “baby galaxies'' astronomers have discovered dating to “just” 650 million years after the Big Bang, making them the earliest known collections of stars. via the New York Times.


5/1: Happy Monday! Sam and Emma host Quinn Slobodian, professor of the History of Ideas at Wellesley College, to discuss his recent book Crack-Up Capitalism: Market Radicals and the Dream of a World Without Democracy.


Understanding EWOC (Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee) | Dawn Tefft & Sam Harshner | TMR

Nothing but love for EWOC. One of the most important institutions in contemporary America IMO.

How Neoliberalism Tricked The Working Class

More fancy treats and gizmos, less democratic power.


“Diversity means everyone is at the table. Inclusion means everyone can talk. Belonging means when you talk, they listen. Workplaces are diverse because they need workers, but what’s missing in the workplace is inclusion and belonging — and that’s what the union brings.”

-- UFCW Local 431 President Simplice Mabiala Kuelo, the first African immigrant to lead one of Iowa’s largest labor unions, discusses the challenges of organizing at the racially stratified meatpacking plants. via InTheseTimes.

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