<$BlogRSDUrl$> 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 30, 2004

The Hellhole Gets More Hellish 

I heard a few interesting things that have been going on at the Grannis plant lately. It sounds like it has gone from bad to very bad to even worse than that since I left.

They were going to add a hanger to the line so that they could turn the line speed up, which they did - up to 210 a minute - but the problem is that they didn't ever hire that extra hanger. So, you can imagine what effect that has had on the workers. One night, around Halloween, they threw 15 people at that line, most of them from debone that had no idea what they were doing and only received debone pay for doing it. They apparently won't (or can't) hire another permanent hanger to work full-time back there. It does no good to just keep throwing inexperienced people at the line to catch all those empty shackles all the other inexperienced people can't get hung. When you get that many people crammed in there in that little room trying to hang those birds, all they do is get in each others' way. It doesn't really help anything. And it actually makes it worse on the few experienced hangers that may be there. Then they can't do their job as well, either because all of these people are in their way, reaching over them, and just generally keeping messing every ting up and preventing them from being as efficient as they can be and otherwise would be.

According to the person I talked to, there are only two regular experienced hangers back there right now (one of which I tried to train before I left and who wasn't that great at the job because he had too much of a temper). The rest of the folks back there have basically been pulled from debone and don't know what they are doing.

They have made absolutely no changes to the setup in the killing room. It is still set up to where it was back when the line speed was 140. It didn't work very well when I worked there, with the line running from 182-186 birds per minute. I can just about imagine what it is like at 210.

I was told that the machine is now missing more than it is hitting. So, that means that the killer has to do a good bit of the work. I can tell you for a fact that two killers working at it couldn't take up that much slack. That's just too many, so there are no doubt a lot more being scalded alive. It is just a mess.

It has gotten bad enough that they are even offering bonuses for people to go in there and kill, and still nobody wants to do it. The bonus is pretty substantial, amounting to almost a dollar more an hour to do it, but they are still not wanting to do it because it isn't worth it to them That should tell you something of just how bad this is.

The new female supervisor that took over is doing about what I figured. Not much. I have heard that she is really pretty young, right out of Tyson's training school and that this is her first post. This is nothing new. Grannis gets a good bit of the new people. But, apparently she hasn't really taken the time to learn much about the jobs those guys are doing on back dock and just does what the folks on top tell her to do. About the same as always, in other words.

Now, you are probably asking yourself how it can possible make sense for Tyson to throw all those extra debone people at that line rather than get one full-time hanger. I will attempt to explain how all of this works.

First off, you have to understand the Tyson pay scale. It goes from job class 1-6, with one as the lowest and six as the highest, as far as pay goes. Debone is a class 1 job. As you get closer to back dock, the classes get higher and the pay gets higher. Back dock is the highest, at a class 6 job. Classes 2-6 they staff with exactly the number of people they need for each job, even knowing that there will be a few every night that won't show up. Sometimes, like in the case of back dock, where the rat of attrition is so high, they don't even staff completely full and keep only the bare minimum skeletal crew back there. Many times they don't fully staff back dock, not immediately hiring a new hanger when one leaves. They instead over-staff debone by 20-30%, which locks their pay at job class 1, not much above minimum wage. Then they use the spillover people to staff the vacant positions in the higher job class positions, with them still earning class 1 pay every shift, thus saving a lot of money overall. They call this "farming them out"

They even put a poor debone guy in the killing room one night. He had never done it, had no idea what he was doing, and yet they put him in there all by himself to do the job. That is dangerous for him. It really takes an experienced killer back there to do that job. You have to have an eye for it that knows how to spot the ones that need cutting as they are flying by, not to mention the fact that you have to be able to cut them and do it properly. To train a new person to kill, an experienced killer has to be there, helping them learn. You spend the first week in there, not really trying to teach them anything, just getting them to watch the line. That's usually when they go through the motion sickness phase. They couldn't cut anything if they wanted to. They will just be puking their guts out (and the puke goes into the drain with the rest of the waste to be made into animal feed). I have seen most people go through that. I did. Some never make it past that. There is no way someone who has never done it can go in there and do that job anywhere near properly. It would be even worse at that higher speed because the cuts would have to be even more precise than before. Without that perfect cut, leading to the fastest bleed-out time, at that higher speed, they wouldn't bleed out and be dead in time before hitting the scalder. They need a very good killer down there now, even more than ever before. Well, I know one experienced killer that won't do it for them, even if they wanted me to (which I am sure they don't - they would probably have me arrested if I showed up down there! Ha ha ha!)

Can you see that if you get 4 or 5 of them on back dock at one time, and the department then has all of the positions filled for the night, they are still running under-budget for their department because their department isn't paying a hanger, yet the same number of people (or more) is back there? Most of the debone people don't even realize that they are being taken advantage of like that. Of the ones who do and make a stink about it, they just get fired. Usually, it just leads to a lot of frustration and anger on everybody's part. The debone people don't know what they are doing and can't keep up and do a really good job, so that frustrates them, especially if they get yelled at for it. Then the regular hanging crew gets upset because these debone hands get in the way, don't get all of their shackles hung, and the regulars have to take up the slack and hang the missed shackles or they get yelled at themselves.

In the end, all of this leads to low morale, a high attrition rate, worse overall job performance, and the chickens suffer even more horribly than normal.

Man, it just keeps getting worse down there...
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