Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fine Alberta-Grade Wingnuttery, With A Side of Industry Whining

Shorter Neil Waugh: That fucking treehugger Harper is in league with Greenpeace to make me pay more for burgers.

Normally, I'd leave it at that, but I'd like to take a closer look at one part of Waugh's article:

Down in the Ozarks yesterday, the Alberta Tories' favourite meat packer, Tyson Foods, was also crying the blues. And not just because the "beef segment" continued to lose money in the first quarter. Largely to blame for its $23-million deficit was "operating losses at the company's Lakeside operation in Canada."

But Tyson CEO Richard Bond had a more urgent problem to discuss with shareholders.

"The dramatic rise in corn prices has become a major issue," he sighed. And while he said he "fully supports efforts toward renewable energy," Bond also warned of the "negative and unintended consequences of overusing grains."

First of all, while the overuse of crops for biofuel can cause problems, that has been recognized and those problems are being dealt with. Secondly, screw Tyson Foods. That would be this Tyson Foods:

Tyson Foods has forced thousands of workers into the cold and onto picket lines at the company’s plant in Brooks, Alberta. About 2,300 UFCW Canada Local 401 workers at the Lakeside Packers plant had no other choice but to strike on October 12, 2005, after the company rejected a provincial mediator’s contract agreement. Workers are asking for basic human rights and safety protection on the job, but have only been met with violence and racism on the picket line.

These workers, many of them refugees from Sudan and Somalia and immigrants from Nigeria, have been attacked on the picket line and subjected to racist jeers. Three were sent to the hospital after being beaten and left writhing in a ditch beside the road. The Local 401 president was also hospitalized when his car was run off the road by Tyson officials, who have since been charged with dangerous diving.

And, just in case you're wondering how bad things could be in a factory in Alberta in 2005, here's another excerpt, from that report:

Godwin Iwanegba, a Tyson employee, illustrates the fight for dignity when he says, “I begged to use the washroom and my boss said 'No', so I ended up wetting myself and standing in my own urine for the rest of the work shift. Later I was disciplined for filing a complaint about what happened.”

For more than a decade, Tyson Foods has operated Lakeside Packers with some of the highest injury rates of any industrialized plant in North America. Many workers have been seriously injured and over the years, scores of workers have been left with permanent injuries and disabilities from working the Lakeside line. The company has refused to agree to a fair contract, leaving workers with the bleak choice of having to strike or return to work at a reprehensible workhouse that has chewed through 100,000 workers over the last 10 years.

Fortunately, the strike did get resolved more-or-less happily. Nonetheless, it'll be awhile before I, and a whole lot of other Albertans, are really ready to put up with any moaning from Tyson Foods on the subject of their bottom line.

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