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Food Inc and Immigrant Workers

A couple of weekends ago I saw Food Inc on its opening weekend. The film (edited by one of Made in L.A.'s editors, Kim Roberts!) is about the food we eat, and the corporations behind it, but the reason I bring it to this blog is to comment on a particularly relevant question explored in the film. Who are the men and women working in the meatpacking plants? As one might guess from the news, they're almost all immigrants. What's less clear from the news is why they're here, and how.

Food Inc delves deep into the reasons for the exodus of hundreds of thousands of small farmers from Mexico, who are losing a way of life because of their inability to compete with low-cost imported U.S. corn, often subsidized by the U.S. government and flowing freely as a result of NAFTA. (Read more here) The cycle continues as large meatpacking companies post ads in their destroyed towns assuring good wages in the U.S., even setting up bus lines to help workers come illegally to the U.S., so they work at meatpacking factories. According to the film, this practice was frequently ignored by Immigration authorities. And, despite the well-publicized, high-profile raids in places like Postville, an organizer in the film explains that the major agribusiness companies only experience "occasional small raids": 10 to 15 immigrants being detained everyday in their trailers, in what he describes as possible complicity between the company and the authorities to avoid bigger crackdowns that could slow or stop production.

I thank the producers of Food Inc for being brave enough to connect the dots, and to link the food we all eat with the lives of hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been turned upside-down (back in Mexico and now in the US) so that we can eat meat everyday.






 

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