"9 to Nowhere" - Tony Horwitz - Wall Street Journal
"9 to Nowhere -- These Six Growth Jobs Are Dull, Dead-End, Sometimes Dangerous" - Tony Horwitz - Wall Street Journal
"They Show How '90s Trends Can Make Work Grimmer for Unskilled Workers"
Morton, MIss. -- They call it "the chain," a swift steel shackle that shuttles dead chickens down a disassembly line of hangers, skinners, gut-pullers and gizzard cutters. The chain has been rattling at 90 birds a minute for nine hours when the woman working feverishly beside me crumples onto a pile of drumsticks. "No more," she whimpers. A foreman with a stopwatch around his neck rushes up. "Come on now," he bellows. "Pump it up.!" Down the chain, a worker named Jose yells and waves wildly, like a drowning man. Bathroom trips are discouraged and require approval. But the foreman can't hear because of the din, and Jose is left grimacing and crossing his legs. Finally, half an hour later, a weary cheer ripples along the line. "The last bird's coming!" someone shouts. Jose sprints toward the bathroom -- and right into the path of a cleanup crew hosing offal into floor drains. Jose slips and then flops onto a sodden bank of fat and skin. "Gotta go," he says, struggling up from the mire. "Gotta go."
". . .But not all of the changes in the industry have bettered workers' lives. With increased automation - including, in some plants, the use of robotics and lasers - many jobs have become 'deskilled,' according to Donald Stull, a meatpacking expert at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Workers who once followed individual cattles through the plant, performing many of the skills of a butcher, 'now stand in the same spot, making the same cut thousands of times a day,' he says. This also heightened the risk of cumulative trauma, which contributes to meatpackin'g ranking as the most dangerous industry in America. . ."