What Hispanic poultry workers in North Carolina say about their work

From: “Good Job, Bad Job: Occupational Perceptions Among Latino Poultry Workers” —

Immigrant workers frequently take jobs that are physically demanding, provide low wages, and result in injuries (e.g., poultry production and processing). Through a qualitative approach, this paper elicits poultry workers’ evaluations of their jobs and set them in the larger context of their lives.

These poultry production and processing workers were realistic about the good and bad characteristics of their jobs. Across all employers, the characteristics deemed good were benefits, and stability. Stability was the most valued characteristics for poultry production and processing work. The literature consistently indicates that those who perceived their jobs to be secure report higher levels of job satisfaction, and lower levels of psychological stress.

This study further validates these findings by showing that poultry production and processing workers are satisfied with their jobs because they offer them stability, particularly compared to other options largely held by Latino immigrant workers (e.g., construction, farm work). Fringe benefits are positive and significant determinants of job satisfaction. Workers who would otherwise have limited access to health insurance describe this characteristic of the job as a valuable one. Good pay was also valued as a job characteristic, but only the employees of one poultry processing company consistently reported receiving good pay.

To these workers, poultry processing has relatively good wages compared to other jobs. Lastly many of the workers see this secure job as an opportunity to provide their children and their family with the “American Dream,” including access to valued outcomes such as education, a house, and financial security.

In opposition to these good job characteristics, these poultry production and processing workers understood that the physical and social environments of their work were bad and could result in poor physical and mental health. They understood that the negative health consequences of these jobs were chronic as well as immediate…These poultry production and processing workers know the causes of ill health (repetitive motions, speed of the line, use of tools such as knifes and scissors, pain in the back from bending down, and concern for the strong odors and dust), and that changing jobs would relieve their pain and other symptoms, but keep to their jobs because the positive characteristics apparently outweigh the negative.

The 65 participants interviewed in western North Carolina were between the ages of 18 and 68 years, with a mean age of 37 years. A little over half (54%) of the participants were men. The majority of the workers were from Mexico (51%) and Guatemala (42%),with the remainder from other Central American countries. Time worked in poultry ranged from 2 months to 20 years, with an average of 6 years.

Good Job, Bad Job: Occupational Perceptions Among Latino Poultry Workers. Dana C. Mora, MPH,Thomas A. Arcury, PhD, and Sara A. Quandt, PhD


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