<$BlogRSDUrl$> The Cyberactivist

Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

More Illegal Acts at Tyson - Tag Removals 

Yesterday's post reminded me of the
issue of pulling the tags off of product
and machinery.

There are two reasons something would
have a tag on it:

1) USDA found it to be contaminated in
some way, and it has to be cleaned up or
thrown away
2) Maintenance may be working on a piece
of machinery and have it locked out, in
which case removing that tag could cause
the maintenance men to be either seriously
injured or killed.

There were quite a few different instances
of tags being removed while I was down at
Grannis. It wasn't a regular thing, but it
did happen, and it is not supposed to ever
happen for any reason at all
. When those
inspectors put tags on things, it is especially,
important because of the fact that not just
that meat, but any meat that it comes in
contact with, will be contaminated also. The
same goes for any worker who touches it
and then touches more meat.

If a worker even touches something that
an inspector has tagged, he is supposed
to go wash completely, but that is never
enforced. One carcass can infect hundreds,
or even thousands more with salmonella,
campylobacter, etc. All these go out to
different points and the problem snowballs.
That is the reason that the tags are so important.

There were several different times that I
have heard different people say that the
supervisor had told them to take the tag
off of something. This was especially bad
among the Quality Control people. Some
of them quit over this problem.

One of the QC guys I spoke to on a regular
basis over this problem was a man that
I carpooled with for two years and knew
all my life. He told me of three different
instances of him pulling tags, all of which
were on a Sunday night. They were on
pallets that had been sitting out of the
freezer all weekend at room temperature.

You could tell by the smell that it was
spoiled. He said that one of the super-
visors joked one time that you couldn't
tell the difference once they put them
in nuggets and then added that the
Colonel would put some of the recipe
on it and it would be fine.

He finally quit because he was afraid
that a bunch of people would get sick
and it would all be blamed on him. He
quit and moved away. (I am withholding
his name because he is a friend that I
do not wish to bring the wrath of Tyson
down upon. Not everyone wishes to go
up against them like I have. I respect
that. They are huge and have a lot of
power. At least he is not part of the
problem anymore.)

Maintenance practiced a lock-out tag-out
policy when they were working on a piece
of machinery down there for safety reasons.
They would always put a tag on the switch
of the piece of the machinery they were
working on so that no one would turn it
on while they were at risk.

The dump was one place in particular
where I saw two guys get nearly killed.
They were under there working on something
underneath the dump at startup time. The
maintenance guy had his little tag on the
switch, and the supervisor just ran up there
and turned the dump on anyway. He just
started running cages up. If the maintenance
guy hadn't ducked his head in time, he would
have had it crushed between two cages of

In another situation, the guy got his leg
broken when it was trapped between two
cages for the same reason. The only difference
was that he was working on the roller bed
instead of under it.

Pulling these tags off is illegal, but it is not
enforced. The inspector can come back
and ask who pulled it off, but all that will
happen is that a group of about 20 guys
will stand there, saying, "I don't know."
How do you enforce that? There are only
eight inspectors and 500 employees. They
do the best that they can, but their hands
are tied because they lack the authority to
really do much. They are like a cop without
a badge or a gun. About all they can do is
shake their finger, and if they do even that
enough times, they will find themselves
in a very inhospitable environment, shall we
say. Some lose entire careers.

The attitude toward the inspectors really
gets me. They should be working together
to produce a safe product, but instead it is
like they are at war with each other. There
was constantly some sort of bickering going
on between the inspectors and the management.
But, of course, line-workers couldn't even
speak to them, on or off the job. I talked
about that issue before in another post.

There are plenty of stories out there if you
know where to look. Most people just don't
want to know. And Tyson takes full advantage
of that fact, just like they take advantage of
everything and everybody they can.
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