Wednesday, May 3, 2017

American Horror Story-or, Maiming Desperate People for Profit

My usual beat is Workers Compensation insurance costs and coverage, as regular readers of this irregular blog know. But this in-depth piece from ProPublica touches upon that territory with heaping helpings of horrors most of us thought were only bad memories from the times described in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.

Alas, such is not the case, it would appear.

You know, in my almost forty years of working with Workers Compensation insurance, most employers I've known have been pretty decent people. Most of them have been genuinely concerned about operating safe workplaces, and took pride in providing a good place for their people to earn a living.

But not all employers are cut from that cloth, of course. And I imagine it isn't that terribly difficult to concentrate so much on Adam Smith type raw capitalism that you never look up from the Profit and Loss statement to notice the blood on the floor of your business.

No, I take that back. No matter how focused you are on your ledgers, you probably notice the screams of people being maimed and mangled at your "farm".

So according to this ProPublica article, this company found what they thought was an ingenious way to crank up profits in an industrial fashion. They started using mainly Guatemalan refugees in their chicken processing operations. And since these workers were fleeing a place where death squads murdered children with impunity, the kind hearted masters of Case Plantation errr, sorry, Case Farms--figured out that these traumatized people would tolerate a lot of shit that other workers wouldn't.

In fact, when the current owners of Case Farms bought the place, it used mainly local Amish women in the chicken processing operations. But those folks soon fled from the changes initiated by the new owners. But the humanitarians at Case Farms had a much more cooperative source of workers, those aforementioned desperate refugees from Guatemala.

Pretty soon, more than chicken pieces were turning up in the products of Case Farms (according to this ProPublica article, at any rate) and sometimes the processing machines deboned more than chickens.

This leads me into musing about how Case Farms handled Workers Compensation. Periodically, I see news stories about some genius legislator advocating for making undocumented workers ineligible for Workers Comp benefits. And I have written previous pieces pointing out that this would actually reward employers who use such undocumented workers, as it would give them significantly lower Workers Comp insurance costs because premium charges are based, to a considerable extent, on prior loss history of the particular employer.

Given the nasty practices described by ProPublica, it isn't surprising to read that Case Farms allegedly wasn't very scrupulous about following the Workers Compensation statutes of Ohio.

The article describes how Case Farms would allegedly often make workers wait months before seeing a doctor for workplace injuries, and allegedly fired injured workers who could no longer process chickens fast enough for their liking.

ProPublica goes into some detail about how Case Farms allegedly bullshitted away a claim from one Claudia Gonzalez. She fought back in court, but didn't appear to get much, if any justice, from our enlightened and compassionate court system.

So read the article, and then tell me again about how government regulation is always a bad thing and how employers are stifled by old fashioned regulations designed to address workplace problems that are now ancient history.

In the meantime, I don't think I'll be buying any Case Farms chicken at my local grocer.

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