Yes, let us think about the workers, but try not to forget that an animal must be slaughtered to have a turkey feast. I can testify that Tofurky is delicious. Enjoy the holiday.
This Thanksgiving, let's give a thought to the people who process turkeys
By David L. Ostendor
November 22, 2009
We should know where our turkeys come from, and who
processes them for us.
The turkeys piled into supermarket freezers carry their
own stories. Raised primarily in massive confinement
buildings by low-paid growers under contract to
corporate food giants, they are genetically designed
for plentiful breast meat to grace our Thanksgiving
platters. They are then trucked to a processing plant,
where they meet their demise.
Reflecting the racial structure of the nation's entire
food system, turkey processing relies largely on the
hard labor of low-wage workers of color. On plant
floors across the country, a predominantly black,
Latino and Asian work force kills, guts, cleans,
processes and packages the Thanksgiving centerpiece
along fast-moving production lines.
Injuries are commonplace. Thousands of individual
repetitive motions every shift raise the probability of
chronic pain for line workers.
Federal safety inspectors are spread thin, and when
they do arrive it is not unusual for supervisors to
silence workers. At a recent meeting of Somali
immigrants with an Occupational Safety and Health
Administration representative, workers were shocked to
learn that they had the right to speak when an
inspector came to their workplace.
Every day of the year, and especially on Thanksgiving,
no one in this country eats without the labor of
immigrants, refugees and other workers of color. This
is not a new reality.
When President Theodore Roosevelt pushed his "cheap
food" policy in order to feed a growing and politically
volatile urban population a century ago, the cost was
imposed on both family farmers and food sector workers.
A cheap food system is fundamentally based on low
commodity prices and low-wage workers, and little has
This Thanksgiving, we should give thanks to the low-
wage workers, many of them immigrant and refugee, who
enable us to have our feast.
Thanksgiving turkey comes laden with human stories of
struggle and hope and dangerous, hard work. With
stories of immigrants and refugees still seeking an
American dream. With stories from many countries
blending to become one nation. With stories in many
languages seeking to become one voice.
So let's give thanks. Eat well. Celebrate. And seek
justice for the workers who feed us.
David L. Ostendorf is executive director of the
Chicago-based Center for New Community, a national
organization dedicated to building community, justice,
and equality nationwide (www.newcomm.org). He is a
minister in the
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.