Immigration Raid at Mississippi Plants Provokes Concerns About Worker Health and Safety

Advocates are worried about how the arrests will affect the plants’ remaining workers and scare undocumented employees from reporting safety violations.

A massive immigration raid at agricultural processing plants across Mississippi on Wednesday has some worker safety advocates worried about the potential consequences for the remaining workers at those plants and undocumented workers across the country. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested about 680 people at food processing plants across the state, making it perhaps the largest worksite operation ever carried out by ICE in a single state, Reuters reported

Dawn M. Lurie, an immigration compliance attorney at Seyfarth Shaw LLP in Washington, D.C., told Bloomberg Lawthat the suddenly short-staffed plants will face a slowdown in production that could lead to missing orders and massive food spoilage. That spoilage could lead to major maintenance issues and health problems for the remaining workers, who will have to take on added job duties with the absence of their colleagues, Lurie said. 

“I’m sure this is all being looked at now,” she said. 

OSHA has cited the poultry processing industry, which had several plants raided by ICE, 737 times in five years, according to Bloomberg. Some lawyers and advocates worry that the large number of immigration arrests at processing plants makes undocumented workers less likely to report safety concerns to federal agencies. 

“These raids will give the green light to companies with already egregious safety records to further cut corners and endanger workers because workers will be too frightened to speak up,” Debbie Berkowitz, the worker health and safety program director at the National Employment Law Project, told Bloomberg. 

Undocumented workers have the right to file health and safety complaints with OSHA and refuse unsafe work, according to Legal Aid at Work, an organization that provides legal help to low-income people. But as fewer people speak up about potential violations, it will “make an unsafe industry even more unsafe,” Berkowitz said. 

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said it is also concerned about how the immigration arrests will affect the reporting of injustice at work.   

“Workers across this country are too scared to stand up for their rights and to report wage theft, dangerous work conditions, and other workplace issues,” UCFW spokesperson Abraham White said in a statement.“We must act now to end this dangerous climate of fear.”

Product Showcase

  • EMSL Analytical, Inc. - Air Sampling Supplies & Testing Labs

    EMSL Analytical, Inc. operates laboratories throughout the United States and Canada. EMSL is a nationally recognized and locally focused provider specializing in fast laboratory results for Asbestos, Mold, Silica, Lead & Metals, Bacteria, Legionella, USP , Combustion By-Products, VOC’s, Radon, PCB’s, Formaldehyde, METH/Fentanyl, Identification of Dust & Unknowns. Sampling Pumps, Cassettes, Media & Supplies available. Reach us at 1-800.220.3675 3

  • SwabTek® Cannabis Test Kit

    The SwabTek® Cannabis Test Kit is a single-use spot test designed for use in screening for cannabis compounds in any sample type or on any surface. The test is capable of identifying the presumed presence of cannabinoids in very small quantities, with a level of detection as little as 6 μg in mass. Learn more about the SwabTek® Cannabis Test Kit and the rest of SwabTek surface drug testing solutions through the webinar titled "Everything You Want To Know About Surface Testing" 3

  • SlateSafety BAND V2

    SlateSafety BAND V2

    SlateSafety's BAND V2 is the most rugged, easy-to-use connected safety wearable to help keep your workforce safe and help prevent heat stress. Worn on the upper arm, this smart PPE device works in tandem with the SlateSafety V2 system and the optional BEACON V2 environmental monitor. It includes comprehensive, enterprise-grade software that provides configurable alert thresholds, real-time alerts, data, and insights into your safety program's performance all while ensuring your data is secure and protected. Try it free for 30 days. 3

Featured