Roughly 150 locals attended an August 12 job fair to apply for jobs at the Koch Foods’ plants in Mississippi.
The fair was run after the August 7 removal of 243 alleged illegal migrants in two of the company’s chicken processing plants, according to local authorities.
The local Jackson Clarion-Ledger newspaper reported 25 to 30 people went to the job fair in Forest, Mississippi. The report said:
Kamerio Whitley, a resident of the nearby town of Morton, spoke to reporters after he left the building. He said there were several positions available at the plant, including forklift operators.
Whitley said he applied for a job working at the plant’s rehang table, where workers hang frozen chickens.
The job starts at $12 an hour, which is decent pay for the area, Whitley said. “That’s not bad to start, and it can always go up,” he said.
The company is also trying to hire workers with online ads. Local officials made sure the hiring process complied with federal hiring regulations, according to WAPT 16.
Koch Foods is not part of the Koch brothers’ network of energy companies.
“By 10 a.m., a crowd of dozens was on hand … Most were black and spoke with accents from the American South. A few appeared white or Hispanic,” AP reported. The news service continued:
The 25-year-old [Eddie Nicholson] has worked in chicken plants before and was considering a return, but wanted to see if wages had gone up. Plants in recent years have typically paid $11 to $12 an hour, according to labor statistics, but Nicholson said he wants $15 an hour.
Like Nicholson, many who applied Monday were chicken plant veterans. They understand the arduous and sometimes dangerous work of slaughtering, butchering and packaging chicken, from hanging up live chickens, to pulling off skin, to cutting with super-sharp knives, to boxing up chicken, much of it done in near-freezing temperatures. The line moves fast and people repeat the same motions over and over.
“It’s definitely hard,” said Cedric Griffith of Magee, who said he’s been working at McDonald’s after getting fired from another chicken processor for missing too many days. “You’re going to lose of lot of weight. Nine times out of 10, when that week is over, you’re tired.”
The area’s unemployment is high, and the wages are low.
From 2000 to 2009, the labor-force participation rate in Mississippi dropped by 9 percent, according to an August 8 report from Krikorian’s CIS. The drop from 78 percent to 69 percent leaves 494,000 U.S.-born adults out of the workforce in 2019, said the report, titled “The Employment Situation of Immigrants and Natives in the First Quarter of 2019.”
Federal data from 2018 shows that half of the meat cutters in the state were being paid less than $12.23 per hour.
But wages have spiked upwards for Americans when employers were forced to give up their illegal workforces. Enforcement actions aided African-American bakers in Chicago and Somali refugees in Iowa and throughout the Midwest after the 2006 enforcement at the Swift & Co. meatpacking company.
Story cited here.