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Mississippi ICE Raids Punished Workers While Koch Foods Got Pass On Discrimination

One of the chicken processing companies raided by ICE this week has been accused of horrific discrimination against both Hispanic workers and black farmers – but Congress and the Trump administration cut the teeth out of federal enforcement for those wrongs.

This morning, Joy Reid highlighted the record of that company, Koch Foods. The name is pronounced “cook” and the company is not part of the Koch brothers’ empire.

Reid hosted ProPublica’s Isaac Arnsdorf, author of an investigation piece into separate federal allegations of discrimination by Koch Foods in its treatment of black farmers and Hispanic workers. Arnsdorf summed up the workers' discrimination case against Koch that was settled a year ago today:

ARNSDORF: The allegations in the lawsuit are very serious. Really shocking allegations. Managers throwing chicken at workers, groping women from behind, asking employees for sex, asking employees to pay them to use the bathroom, or get transferred to a different position. The company, which I should note, did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement, their response to those allegations, which brings us right back to the immigration, the subject of the raids, was that the women were making up these allegations so that they could get protected status in the U.S. as people who are victims of crime.

In a separate federal investigation, the company has also been accused of discriminating against black farmers under contract to raise its chickens. Arnsdorf explained that a few years ago, only four out of 173 farmers contracted to grow chickens in Mississippi for this Koch Foods facility were black. That number is now zero because, according to the farmers, the company made demands of them, not made to the others and “that caused them to go out of business and lose their farms.” The details in Arnsdorf’s article are heartbreaking.

Although the farmers raise the chicks, Arnsdorf said, “The company controls the feed, they control the chickens, so they control who gets the high quality feed or enough feed. They control who gets the healthiest chickens or sick chickens.” That kind of power and control “is part of how the farmers said they were discriminated against,” he added.

The information in the ProPublica article is very, very damning – and not just about Koch. Despite the “evidence of unjust discrimination” found by the federal government and the Obama administration’s efforts to tighten enforcement with new regulations, “the meat industry lobbied Congress to block the proposed rules by withholding funding from the USDA. When the Trump administration came in, it swiftly prevented the rules from taking effect.”


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But wait, it gets worse. Under Trump, the USDA has greatly lowered both its investigations and penalties with its already inadequate rules. Now, the enforcers, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, has been dissolved altogether, Arnsfeld reported. The USDA has shifted responsibility for enforcement “into another division whose primary purpose is helping companies boost sales.”

And yet, it’s the Hispanic workers who were targeted..

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