"He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left."
Matthew 25:33

Monday, April 2, 2007

Metzen and the meatpacking bill

By Bill Jungbauer

My neighbor, Jose was in my garage the other day and he said to me "Bill, when a person moves to America, he should learn English."

This bill would require employers to notify employees in their native language. Lets think about this for a moment. If a packing plant has employees that speak Spanish, Hmong, Arabic, and Russian, the employer would need four different interpreters. What would that do to the price of the final product? Would this hinder an employer from hiring people who speak a foreign language?

This bill also seeks to expand big government by requiring an ombudsman to represent the meatpacking industry.

Metzen said he compromised out of political necessity, not because he changed his mind. Hesse, however, is working to restore the original provisions in the Senate and, on the House side, much of the original proposal - including the ombudsman position - so far remains intact.

South St. Paul / City in the thick of debate over worker rights
Advocates say meatpackers need special protections
Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 04/01/2007 11:52:42 PM CDT

Meatpacking jobs have always been dirty and dangerous, and a way for new immigrants to get a foothold in the American economy.

Today, packinghouse workers are more likely to speak Spanish or Somali than the Croatian, Serbian or Polish of previous generations.

But wherever the workers have been from and whatever language they've spoken, they have needed protection from the exceptional hazards of their workplaces and, occasionally, from unscrupulous employers.

But just how much government regulation and oversight are needed? That's one of the debates at the Minnesota Legislature as lawmakers consider whether to adopt a Packinghouse Workers Bill of Rights and what to put in the legislation.

South St. Paul, fittingly, is in the thick of the debate, even though its famous stockyards will go out of business next year and the last of the big meatpackers left 28 years ago.

Dakota Premium Foods, a significant slaughterhouse and meatpacking operation, remains. The business, with some 300 workers, is part of the giant Fairmont, Minn.-based Rosen's Diversified Inc.

And the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 789, the labor union that represents about a third of the state's 16,000 meatpackers in 320 plants, also is based in South St. Paul.

The geographical confluence of interests has been enough to spark conflict over the proposed legislation. Two South St. Paul DFLers, Sen. James Metzen and Rep. Rick Hansen, are sponsoring the Packinghouse Workers Bill

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