07 June 2013

Poultry Parts, II

Back when I was new graduate from a very prestigious public university and still believed that good intentions lead to improving life for all humanity, I became very emotionally invested in the story of laborers killed in an industrial food processing facility. The fire had taken so many lives primarily because the owner of the factory didn't want any workers to steal any of the chicken meat that was deep fried in enormous vats. I've since learned more of the details of their deaths. To demonstrate how much the times have changed, in 1991, I was cutting out articles from the newspapers and collating them so I could better understand the story and its aftermath. As it happened, in fact, the fire was started by a faulty hydraulic hose that produced a fireball when the pressurized fluid was vaporized and then was ignited by the burners under the deep fat fryers. At the time, I imagined that it was primarily the reprocessed chicken fat that ignited and after sucking the oxygen out of the building further scorching the lungs of those trapped in the building.
It all came back to me in a flash, that senseless tragedy and that phase of my life, when I first heard about the fire that, so far, has claimed the lives of 120 workers of a chicken meat processing facility in Dehui near Changchun in Jilin province.
And from the early accounts, the primary cause of the needless and dreadful deaths was the same: a shortage of or barred emergency exits. The similarities of how they were killed by the very same industry lead me to believe that the motives that recreated the conditions were also the same: a cuthroat interest to drive down costs and a disregard for the lives of the laboring class. One might be inclined to believe that capitalism has found its way to China because of low labor costs; the primary reason is that life here is cheaper, just as it was then in Hamlet, North Carolina, a right-to-work state. The results of the trial against Imperial Foods led the state to levy fines in the amount of $808,150, or $32, 330 per murder. The owner, Emmett Roe, of the now demolished factory served less than 4 years of a 19 year 11 month sentence for his decision to order the fire exits blocked. Mr. Roe agreed to a plea deal in order that his accomplices not also be tried for the murders. This is a frequent arrangement in organized crime families, too.  

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