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Dynamic Range

The bodies of immigrants

It’s dangerous to be an immigrant worker.

So says a scholar who wants to shine a light on what farm labor does to the bodies of immigrants, largely responsible as they are for producing and harvesting the country’s food supply.

The difficulties faced by immigrant farm laborers have been well documented. (See troubling cases of modern-day slavery and the struggles of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.) In his book Breaks in the Chain: What Immigrant Workers Can Teach America about Democracy, Paul Apostolidis explores how immigrants produce America’s food at great risk to their own physical wellbeing.

This is especially true, according to Apostolidis, when they work in meat processing plants. In a recent talk at the Chicago Public Library, he cited the example of a Washington slaughterhouse operated by Tyson, the country’s second-largest producer of chicken, beef and pork. Apostolidis said that in any given year 1 in 4 workers at the Tyson plant are seriously injured on the job. “And this is in and industry where we know reporting is suppressed,” he added.

Apostolidis argued that the bodily security of middle class Americans, and their ability to consume meat and produce, is contingent upon the physical misery of immigrants. You can hear his rationale, and the stories of some of the workers he interviewed, in the audio above.

Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Paul Apostolidis spoke at the Chicago Public Library in April. Click here to hear the event in its entirety.


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