business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports that "one of the largest food safety companies in the United States illegally employed more than two dozen children in at least three meatpacking plants, several of whom suffered chemical burns from the corrosive cleaners they were required to use on overnight shifts, the Labor Department found.

"The department filed for an injunction in U.S. District Court in Nebraska on Wednesday against Packers Sanitation Services, which Judge John. M. Gerrard swiftly ordered on Thursday. The injunction requires the company to stop 'employing oppressive child labor' and to comply with a Labor Department investigation into the practice.

"Packers, a cleaning and sanitation company based in Kieler, Wis., provides contract work at hundreds of slaughtering and meatpacking plants across the country.

"The Labor Department found that Packers employed at least 31 children, ranging in age from 13 to 17, who cleaned dangerous equipment with corrosive cleaners during overnight shifts at three slaughtering and meatpacking facilities: a Turkey Valley Farms plant in Marshall, Minn., and JBS USA plants in Grand Island, Neb., and Worthington, Minn. … According to court documents, the Labor Department believes Packers may employ minor children under similar conditions at other plants."

KC's View:

What kind of company does this?  What kind of people running a company do this?  Let's reinforce some of the more striking passages from the story:

"Their jobs included cleaning kill floors, meat- and bone-cutting saws, grinding machines and electric knives, according to court documents. The mix of boys and girls were not fluent English speakers and were interviewed mostly in Spanish, investigators said.

The Labor Department found that several minors employed by the company, including one 13-year-old, suffered caustic chemical burns and other injuries. One 14-year-old, who worked from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. five to six days a week, suffered injuries from chemical burns from cleaning machines used to cut meat. School records showed that the student fell asleep in class or missed class because of the job at the plant … The Labor Department also accused the company of interfering with the investigation by intimidating minor workers to discourage them from cooperating, and of deleting and manipulating employment files."

I really hope the injunction is only the first step, assuming these charges can be proven.  Not sure if this is proportional or not, but when kids are exploited this way, companies ought to be put out of business and the so-called adults who run them ought to go to jail.  (I always wonder in these cases - do the company leaders at such places not have children?  Or do they just consider other people's children to have less value than their own?)