Latinos assigned to the plant’s least desirable jobs

Felipe* has thought about leaving his job at a North Alabama poultry processing plant. But he keeps working because he’s not sure if there are jobs for him elsewhere.

A Mexican with lawful permanent resident status, he has worked at the processing plant for three years. In the past, two co-workers would assist him with weighing, packing and labeling boxes of processed chicken.

There was good reason for three workers to do these tasks. Eventually someone must carry away the packed boxes or retrieve empty ones. The remaining two workers could continue to weigh and pack the chicken arriving on the conveyor belt.

But after a new plant manager decided to cut workers, Felipe does all of these tasks. He’s been alone at his station since Alabama’s HB 56 took effect.

Working alone means he often ends up working in pain. He can feel the pain and fatigue in his neck. He worries that he may hurt himself worse. But he must work fast or the chicken will pile up on the conveyor belt and fall to the floor. A supervisor’s assistant yells at him when that happens, but it’s hard to prevent. At some point, he must leave his station to carry away the packed boxes or retrieve empty boxes.

Felipe has told a plant official that he needs more workers at his station.

He says he is told: “Hurry up, and if you don’t like it, the door is right there.”

Other workers have complained about short-staffing and the safety issues it presents. But nothing has changed. Felipe knows that Latinos are assigned to the least desirable jobs. All he has to do is look around the plant for proof.

But there also are fewer Latino workers at the plant since Alabama’s anti-immigrant law was enacted. That means if he quits, it’s unlikely there will be a Latino worker to take his place.

He’s certain that as soon as he leaves, three non-Latino workers will be assigned to his station – just enough to complete all of his tasks.