Poultry giant reports gains as workers protest conditions
By Joe Atkins, Labor South
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.
Joe Atkins is a professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi and author of "Covering for the Bosses: Labor and the Southern Press." A veteran journalist, Atkins previously worked as the congressional correspondent with Gannett New Service's Washington bureau and with newspapers in North Carolina and Mississippi.