Grantee Reveals Dangers Facing Immigrant Workers at West Virginia Chicken Plant

Grantee Reveals Dangers Facing Immigrant Workers at West Virginia Chicken Plant
By USC Center for Health Journalism

The Pilgrim’s Pride chicken factory in Moorefield, West Virginia, has a history of dangerous working conditions, from spinning saw blades to grabby conveyor belts to sharp metal hooks and knives.

Those conditions have consistently endangered its immigrant workforce, reports 2023 National Impact Fund grantee Allen Siegler of Mountain State Spotlight.

“Throughout the last decade, Pilgrim’s Moorefield plant has been one of the most dangerous non-coal industrial workplaces in West Virginia,” he writes.

Immigrants, many of whom fled poverty or violence in their countries, make up a significant proportion of the poultry plant’s employees, Siegler reports.

Severe injuries were reported by a dozen factory employees from 2015 to 2023, leading to amputations and overnight hospitalizations, according to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Immigrant workers, who often lack English proficiency, are especially vulnerable to dangers, as they face barriers to understanding safety protocols and voicing concerns.

In a second story, Siegler reports on the struggles these workers face in acclimatizing to American life. He tells the story of Tatiana, who after losing her job in Honduras, migrated to Moorefield in hopes of securing a better future for her children.

“Moorefield immigrants often struggle to find affordable housing, adequate interpretation services, financial assistance and other resources that could ease the transition to the U.S,” Siegler reports.

Despite initiatives by nonprofits and the local government to offer support for immigrant workers and their families, many still “go without benefits they qualify for or medical treatment they need, struggle to pay bills and worry whether they will be able to put food on the table for their kids.”

“I only thought I would change my children’s financial fate,” Tatiana said. “I’m here, and I wasn’t able to change it. So I feel the American Dream doesn’t exist.”

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