The poultry plant in Alabama
The poultry plant Google Maps

Four minors were found working in a poultry plant in Alabama owned by the same company where a Guatemalan teen died last summer, NBC News reported on Saturday.

Mar-Jac Poultry denied knowingly hiring minors for the plant, located in Jasper, saying they had verified IDs showing they were older than 17. It added that some of the tasks assigned to them are not banned by federal regulations. They involved lifting and hanging chilled and eviscerated chicken carcasses and cutting wings from carcasses on a conveyor belt.

However, the Labor Department has said that most slaughterhouse work is too dangerous for minors and is seeking a temporary restraining order against the company amid their legal dispute.

Company attorney Larry Stine said it's against their policy to hire anyone under 18 and told the outlet that the tasks performed were specifically allowed by the law. The trade group that owns the company also says it has "zero tolerance" for employing minors.

However, the Labor Department found that some of them were Guatemalan and attended a local high school. they worked from Sundays to Thursdays and started their shifts at 11 p.m.

The Alabama plant was also cited in December for "serious violation" of worker safety by a different area of the Labor Department after an employee "reached into [a] machine using an unguarded approach attempting to rectify the hanging placement of a chicken and was injured."

Many Latinos end up in these jobs as some companies don't check people's migratory status or age. The dangers faced by this group when working in the industry jumped to the forefront of the national conversation last year when a 16-year-old Latino died while on the job at a Marc-Jac poultry plant in Mississippi.

Duvan Robert Tomas Perez, a Guatemalan immigrant who had arrived in the country with his family six years prior, "became entangled" in one of the machines he was cleaning, suffering a fatal injury.

Mar-Jac acknowledged in its statement that the employee was under 18 and never should have been hired. "Mar-Jac MS would never knowingly put any employee, and certainly not a minor, in harm's way," the statement reads. "But it appears, at this point in the investigation, that this individual's age and identity were misrepresented on the paperwork."

It was the third death at the plant in less than three years, another one also being a Latino. Joel Velasco Toto died in December 2020 from "abdominal and pelvic trauma caused by a compressed air injury."

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.