North Carolina Poultry Industry

Poultry Work in North Carolina

“Working in the lines is very fast. But…you get used to it, more than anything, for the salary. Because, well, they do pay well. And…it depends on the work you do, they give you more, like bonuses,” Guadalupe Garcia’s testimony on the benefits of poultry plant work.

The Poultry Processing Industry 

Well-known poultry companies such as Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Butterball, and Sanderson Farms have a long-standing history of successful business in North Carolina. These businesses wouldn’t be where they are without the team of farmers and farm workers working on poultry farms. 

In our article, we highlight some of the challenges facing the business side of the poultry industry in North Carolina. We examine the impacts on community health and the environment, and we feature a testimonial from a poultry plant worker, offering firsthand insights into the motivations behind joining North Carolina’s leading industry despite its physical demands and challenges. 

Guadalupe Garcia’s testimony underscores the resilience of those who adapt to the fast-paced environment and physical discomforts, revealing the array of benefits and incentives that attract immigrant families seeking stability. Notably, these benefits, often missing in other professions, play a crucial role in supporting and securing the well-being of their families. As Garcia highlights, the discomforts are not for everyone. Focused on benefits and stability for their families, the resilient stay, as Garcia’s account reveals.

The Business Side of Poultry Farm Work

Examining the operational aspects of poultry farming, a 2023 article by The Charlotte Observer delves into the challenges facing poultry farmers.

Ames Alexander writes that corporations give farmers the baby chicks. They feed and care for them, and then they are expected to take them back after 6 to 8 weeks to then be taken to a slaughter farm. After being slaughtered, they are processed at one of the 15 poultry processing plants in North Carolina

 

 

 

Image Credit: Dusan Petkovic/iStock.

 

 

Navigating the process of owning and operating a poultry farm is difficult, and the article highlights why so many people are quitting the industry. One of the main struggles that many poultry farms undergo is not having enough funds to keep the farm adequately going.

For example, to build a poultry house,  it can take around $300,000, and potentially more, to create a poultry house and then pay additional fees such as electricity, gas, heat, and other necessary equipment. Large corporations do not take into consideration the hidden costs that come with owning a poultry farm. 

 

 

 

“Building and setting up a typical four-barn farm will require them to take out more than $1 million in loans, farmers say.” – Ames Alexander

 

 

 

In addition to the costs of owning a poultry farm, farmers earn about 6 to 7 cents per pound for raising a bird. These farms compete in what Ames Alexander calls “tournaments” to compensate growers to see how much they can fatten their chickens. 

With these guidelines in place, farmers’ income become dependent on external factors, such as the health of the baby chickens and the quality of the feed. In response, the Department of Agriculture proposed a new policy that would make it mandatory for poultry companies to share more information about the potential costs and risks for farmers to make informed decisions.

 

 

 

 

Environmental and Health Impacts

North Carolina’s failure to regulate poultry farms has endangered the environment and jeopardized human health, leaving people of color to suffer disproportionate impacts from the waste, a new federal civil rights complaint alleges” – Adam Wagner, Gavin Off, Ames Alexander.

A 2023 federal complaint was filed with the Environmental Protection Agency by organizations such as Friends of the Earth and the Vermont Law and Graduate School’s Environmental Justice Clinic. The lack of regulation in North Carolina’s dry litter poultry industry has led to a surge of challenges with facilities storing litter in outdoor piles that attract pests and emit a foul odor.

Chemicals from the litter contaminate waterways and air, increasing asthma and health risks. As the complaints reveal, the industry is considered a contributor to nutrient pollution in state waterways, a problem caused by dry litter poultry operations that are exempt from permitting requirements.

Advocates of the environment state the regulatory gap persists even though North Carolina’s Constitution mandates the conservation and protection of natural resources.

The 2023 investigation by The Charlotte Observer and The Raleigh News & Observer identified approximately 4,700 poultry farms across 79 counties in North Carolina. It is estimated that around 230,000 people live within half a mile of these farms, which is the distance manure odor can travel.

Residents of Robeson, Duplin, and Sampson counties live near poultry farms, with 850 farms located in these three counties alone.

 

 

Map of North Carolina that outlines the location of poultry factories in the state. Image Credit: The Environmental Working Group.

 

 

Poultry farms located in North Carolina are considered “deemed permitted,” which creates an easier pathway for poultry farms to be built, especially in areas with large communities of color.

In addition, environmental regulators do not inspect poultry barns that can hold up to 40,000 birds. Since regulators do not know where these farms are located due to a lack of permit requirements, it is hard to track where poultry waste is going and how it affects surrounding communities.

 

 

“Some 4,700 poultry farms are in 79 North Carolina counties. An estimated 230,000 people live within a half mile of a farm, the distance odor from the manure can travel” – Adam Wagner, Gavin Off, Ames Alexander. 

 

 

This practice is particularly concerning given the significant role that large-scale poultry farming plays in North Carolina’s agricultural sector. Residents in communities adjacent to poultry farms face heightened risks of pneumonia, and property values in these areas are poised to decline due to the farms’ proximity.

The complainants argued that the situation constituted a violation of civil rights due to its widespread negative impacts. The precise environmental impact of poultry farms on the environment is difficult to gauge as inspections of the sector are not fully carried out.

 

 

Image Credit: Sonja Fillitz/iStock.

 

 

Increasing transparency regarding poultry farm-related information is crucial. Despite ongoing efforts in this regard, there remain industry leaders who either refrain from commenting on the matter or point to federation guidelines, such as the recommendation not to build a poultry farm within 1,000 feet of an occupied residence.

In the NC Poultry Federation’s Preamble, the document cites poultry production as North Carolina’s leading agricultural industry, crucial to the state’s economy. The preamble affirms that poultry producers are committed to fostering this industry while respecting the environment, and acknowledge the potential environmental impacts and the need for proactive guidelines to protect water quality and public health:

“…The economic importance of the poultry industry to the people of North Carolina requires all citizens to work together to foster this vital industry while respecting the environment, and North Carolina poultry producers commit to doing their fair share by subscribing to these Guidelines and Standards.”

Non-profit organizations such as Friends of the Earth hope things will change soon. As the organization highlights, animal products are the most resource-intensive foods in our diet, demanding extensive water and energy resources while producing substantial greenhouse gas emissions and causing soil, air, and water pollution.

To mitigate the worst impacts of climate change and safeguard water supplies for future generations, they state we have a need to produce and consume “less and better.” This involves eating fewer animal products, supporting farmers and ranchers who practice sustainable animal farming, and ensuring access to the healthiest food options for everyone.

 

Poultry Processing Plant Testimonial: A Q & A with Guadalupe Garcia 

A 2024 testimonial of working conditions inside a Poultry Processing Plant in North Carolina

As we have discussed, the poultry industry is crucial to North Carolina’s economy. However, there is a need to improve access to information for poultry farmers to help them invest wisely. While the industry is economically beneficial, it requires better permits and inspections to enhance the lives of nearby communities and protect the environment.

Now, we turn our attention to the workers in the industry. How does the job benefit them and their families? Is there room to improve working conditions? In our interview with a poultry worker, we gain insight into the working side of the industry.

 

 

Guadalupe Garcia taking a break from work life to relax at her home in Siler City. Image Credit: Guadalupe Garcia.

 

 

Latina Republic was able to speak with Mrs.Guadalupe Garcia to get a detailed testimonial about the working conditions of the famous poultry plant, Mountaire process plant in North Carolina. 

Guadalupe Garcia was born in Guerrero, Mexico, and resides in Siler City, North Carolina. Siler City is a predominantly Latino town with many employed at the local Mountaire poultry processing plant, which locals often call “La Pollera.”

She has worked for Mountaire Processing Plant for the past three years and enjoys her job. In the following interview, Ms.Garcia shares more about her working experiences in the plant, the benefits she has attained, and the plant’s workshops on safety training.

We also learn about labor conditions, like standing for long periods of time, stress in the hands and back, working in close proximity with colleagues, dealing with cold temperatures, and risks of working with knives and scissors in a speedy manner on an assembly line. 

Alessandra Caceres: Hello, good afternoon. My name is Alessandra Cáceres and I am a reporter with Latina Republic. Today I am with Mrs. Guadalupe García and we are going to talk a little about her experiences in the Siler City pollera. Good afternoon, Mrs. Guadalupe. I don’t know if before starting the interview you want to say something, perhaps saying hello?

Guadalupe Garcia: Yes, hello! My name is Guadalupe García, I’m here because this young lady, Alessandra, is going to interview me about my work at what we call the “pollera” of Siler City, which is Mountaire. And well, I am going to help this lady with the questions that she is going to ask me. Let’s see. 

Alessandra Caceres: Thank you. So, the first question I have for you is, how did you find the job in the Pollera? 

Guadalupe Garcia: Ah, well, because of a connection and it was being published by various types of newspapers and there was a lot of information about when it was going to open. And, well, the Mountaire Pollera opened in January 2019. I was one of the first people to enter when the pollera opened.

Because I know a woman who works there and she was the one who also told me that they were going to open it. And, well, I was one of the first twenty people who asked to come in. Because, at the beginning, I entered through a contractor company. But I worked for only two and a half years.

Then I left and, well, later I came back and I entered directly under the pollera. And now, there I am, with the plant, I will have been there for three years. And, well, what I like is that the work is very close to my home. And the truth is, the salary is very good, it is well paid.

Well, for us, they pay us starting at fifteen and then sixteen an hour. And, well, it has very good benefits such as health insurance, 401k, and paid vacations. After three months, we get one week of paid vacation. After six months, we get two weeks. And they give us these days that they call floating days, which are not considered days off and they are also not paid, but we can take them off and they won’t give us points, as we refer to it.

And the truth is, yes, I like it because it takes me five minutes from, here, to my house. Well, I don’t spend money on gas to go somewhere far away. Because the truth is, there are many people who come from far away, like from High Point, Greensboro and Sanford.

And, well, yes, I admire these people because they are very far away for them to come here. And I mean, why am I going to go look somewhere else, to waste time and gas when I have work here, I have it very close. And, well, I like it because I previously worked at one that was here before called “La Tyson.”

It was there for many years and I worked there previously. And, this one, well, although many people don’t like it, the truth is it’s because it is very cold, very cold there. It is very cold and the work is very, very hard. The work is fast. For example, there is the department of “La Caliente,” as we call it.

There is “La Viva,” where they are already killing the chicken. “La Caliente”… then there is the “paws” department then, the gizzards and, well, that’s where they pack the legs. It depends on where they place you. Because some places are easier than others.

Because in the line as one calls it, the conditions, are very hard there. And, well, many people, the truth is, can’t stand it. Because the lines are very fast. But, well, I say, you get used to it and, more than anything, for the salary. Because, well, they do pay well and it depends on the work you do, they give you more, like bonuses.

They give bonuses, apart from the salary. And, well, that’s why people like it and put up with it. And, well, it all depends on the experience you have. Because yes, the work is very hard, very fast. 

Alessandra Caceres: Yes, of course, it seems to me that the job offers a lot of stability. Especially economic stability. And exactly, what are you doing in the Pollera? Because you were explaining to me that there are different sectors. Which one do you work in?

Guadalupe Garcia: I work in the Paws department. It’s paws and the gizzard. I work there in packaging. Packing legs, packing gizzards. And I am in that department.

Alessandra Caceres: And how many hours do you work per week?

Guadalupe Garcia: Ah, well, forty. Sometimes, yes, sometimes, they tell me to stay for one, half an hour or something, but almost regularly, forty. Yes, before they did give us a lot of overtime, but now they don’t anymore, they already took that away.

Alessandra Caceres: It’s forty hours, okay. And you mentioned that they paid for your vacations, too.

Guadalupe Garcia: Well yes, they pay vacations, some days after the holidays are paid. And it has good benefits, I tell you, like health insurance and they have a clinic which belongs to them, the clinic. It’s next to the pollera.

Alessandra Caceres: That is great that they offer those 401K benefits. And at work, who are your colleagues? Is it a large community of immigrants?

Guadalupe Garcia: Yes, there are a lot, actually. You can say that almost the majority of people, as it has two shifts, which is first and second shift, are almost all Latino immigrants. There are a lot of them.

Alessandra Caceres: Where are the majority from? Are they from Mexico, Central America, South America?

Guadalupe Garcia: They are mixed. There are Central Americans, Mexicans, but almost, I think there are more Central Americans, like Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans.

Alessandra Caceres: Interesting and in the sector where you work with the paws, what are the specific tasks that you have there?

Guadalupe Garcia: Ah, well, I’m packing the gizzard, and I’m at the scale, and sometimes I go to the line to pack the leg and I go pick them out myself, because we are choosing the good ones and the bad ones, and sometimes the supervisor takes me to another place because, she is the same supervisor of the legs and the gizzard. And well, I do different jobs, weighing, sealing bags, bagging, choosing a leg.

Alessandra Caceres: Ah, so you do everything.

Guadalupe Garcia: Yes, I know the job there very well. 

Alessandra Caceres: Is this the first time you have worked in a pollera, or had you previously worked at one?

Guadalupe Garcia: Previously, I worked at Tyson.

Alessandra Caceres: Ah, right.

Guadalupe Garcia: I worked at Tyson for about three years, as well.

Alessandra Caceres: And what do you think are some of the difficulties of your work? 

Guadalupe Garcia: Yes, the truth is working in the line, the work is very hard, very hard, because they are using their hands all the time, because they use knives, scissors, the women in Black Label, which is what we call it, work all day, 8 hours using the scissors.

In this other department that they call the “Whole Leg,” there they use the machine all day long. The women are with this little machine removing the bone from the leg, and use the machine all day long. And yes, there are many women there, and there are almost all women in Black Label, all women, almost the majority are women, meanwhile there are only few men to take care of small things.

Many women complain that their back hurts, because the movement is in their arms and in their back. And then they are in the cold, and then after grabbing tools all day, one goes to the bathroom, washes one’s hands, and well one’s hand is warm and that’s why they complain of pain.

Then standing all day in one place, well, yes, it is also cold, mind you, because when you are alone, in one place, and you have no movement, it is cold, but when one is in motion. The truth is that it even makes me feel hot, but because I’m moving here and there at the scale, opening the boxes, for example. Because I previously worked in the department where they use the knife, the scissors, and where I am now, I like it because there we don’t use scissors, we don’t use a knife, nothing, just our hands. Yes, and I understand that using all those tools can be dangerous, too.

 

 

 

Guadalupe Garcia getting ready to go into work at Mountaire Processing Plant. Image Credit: Guadalupe Garcia.

 

 

 

Alessandra Caceres: Does your office management offer any training on safety, or how to take care of yourself when you are working?

Guadalupe Garcia: Yes, the truth is, every month, at the beginning of the month, they give us a class called “Safety class,” it is 30 or sometimes 40 minutes, and they tell us about the dangers that there may be, the diseases that one can catch.

For example, when you cut yourself, you shouldn’t touch it and should quickly notify the supervisor, and yes, the truth is, when a serious accident happens, they take care of you, Yes, they are very attentive to that for example if someone has fallen, all the supervisors are already running toward you and everything, and well, yes, there is a lot of safety about that.

I like that every month they give us a safety class about the dangers that there may be, such as fires; where the exit doors are, and then they do a fire drill. And well, they tell us where the exit doors are since it is a very big plant. Many people are scattered and each department has different exit and emergency exit doors. So yes, the truth is, it’s very good.

Alessandra Caceres: That’s good that they offer that training, especially with a lot of people working in one place. How many people do you work with?

Guadalupe Garcia: Well the truth is, I have no idea how many people there are, but yes, it is a lot of people especially since there are two shifts, the first and second shift, and then, well, the washers, the second shift leaves, the people who come in to wash the entire floor, to clean.

Alessandra Caceres: Is it common for someone to have an accident at work, or have you ever had an accident at work?

Guadalupe Garcia: Yes, well it is common, because there are times when there is, well, chicken lying around. Once in November, I even fell, I slipped once, because I was with the knives in my hand, because I was going to put them on the line so that when the people came to work they would be ready.

Since I go in early, I help the lady organize the knives, and the cups that one puts on their arm, and gloves. And I, well, climbed the stairs with the knives, and well, I don’t know how but I slipped, and well, I fell, very fast, and I did get medical attention. And then, well, since we have the infirmary, they quickly take you to an infirmary and they take care of you.

Alessandra Caceres: Do you think that other polleras in other parts of North Carolina also have that same organization, that same need to be attentive to their workers?

Guadalupe Garcia: Well, I don’t know, because the truth is, the only pollera that I have worked at was Tyson, and the one I am employed at now, Mountaire. There is another one in Sanford, but I never went to work there, but, well I imagine that, they must all be the same. Yes, the truth is, I have no idea about the others, because I do know people, families, who work in, like in Prestage Farms, what they call it, but I have not asked them what their work is there, or about safety.

What I like now is that the safety is very good, because I tell you, every month, as the month begins, they send all of us to see a safety class for 30, 40 minutes.

Alessandra Caceres: Yes, of course. Were you working on the pollera during COVID, or were you out of work? 

Guadalupe Garcia: Yes, the truth is, I was working, because a lot of people were afraid and left, but, well, you know, one always has a need to work, and there was a lot of protection about that. They always cared about protecting people, because they put protection on the tables to divide people when we went out to eat. And we were wearing masks all the time. Our supervisors would come to check on us and see that we always had the mask on, from here on the nose and up. The inspectors were always there, seeing that one was protected as well. And,  as soon as one of them told him, no, I feel sick, well, then they were sent to their house.

Alessandra Caceres: Ah, how interesting. Yes, I know that many people, especially immigrants, still went out to work, especially in factories, so I really admire your work, because I honestly don’t think I could.

Guadalupe Garcia: Well, yes I did. Yes, my children here, my husband told me, don’t go, leave because you’re going to get sick, and then you’re going to bring the illness to all of us here, because, well, a lot of people work there, and you don’t know.

I told him, no, no, you don’t have to be that afraid, first of all before anything, God! Everything is going to be fine, and the truth is that, yes, I got sick, but it was towards the end and it was something mild. But I reported it quickly, and when you got sick, they did pay you for the time that you were away…about a week, well, they paid you for your time, a week specifically, paid because of the COVID disease.

 

 

Guadalupe Garcia and her family. Image credit: Guadalupe Garcia.

 

 

 

Alessandra Caceres: Ah, that’s great that you are better and now continuing to work as normal.

Guadalupe Garcia: Yes, and they always give us the free flu vaccine. They vaccinate us right there, well…. the people who want it, because there are many people who don’t believe in that and they don’t get vaccinated.

With COVID, many people didn’t want to get vaccinated, because, like many people, they are Christians and don’t believe in that, but, well, I do, the truth is, I got vaccinated. They even paid you to get vaccinated, they gave you 100 dollars as long as you got vaccinated. 100 dollars to each person that got vaccinated. There were many people who didn’t want to get vaccinated, but I did.

Alessandra Caceres: Yes, because I remember that when I was doing research on la pollera, I realized that the percentages of people who had been vaccinated were very high, and now it makes sense because the factories, I suppose, gave them that incentive of money, or, I wonder, is it an obligation to get vaccinated there?

Guadalupe Garcia: No, they don’t force you, no, the truth is, no, only if the person wants to and if not they respect it. Yes, they don’t force it, just like with the flu, they put the announcements that they are going to be vaccinating people, if you are the person who wants it, and if not, then it is not mandatory. 

I tell you, for me, it is a good job because, well, it is close to me, the benefits they offer are good, paid vacations, the 401k, then, well, it has very good benefits, the truth is, the insurance and everything is very good. I like it, although other people, well, they don’t like it, I don’t know, maybe they are not used to the cold and all that, or to working like with many people, because yes, well, there, you work with many people, for example, on the line, well, people are together, and, well, there are many people who perhaps don’t like that, working like that. 

But, well, there is a lot of teamwork, really, because, well, the chicken is whole, one cuts off one arm, the other cuts off the other, takes out the wing, the other takes out the other part, and the legs and everything runs like this. Yes, that’s why, well, for me, it’s fine, I like my job.

 

 

Guadalupe Garcia celebrating Mother’s Day at the Mountaire Processing Plant. Image Credit: Guadalupe Garcia.

 

 

Alessandra Caceres: Yes, that’s great, yes, I’m glad you like your work, and thank you very much for sharing all this information.

 

Check out the original interview in Spanish below!

Alessandra Caceres: Hola, buenas tardes. Me llamo Alessandra Cáceres y soy reportera con Latina Republic. Hoy me encuentro con la señora Guadalupe García y vamos a hablar un poco sobre las experiencias de ella en la pollera de Siler City. Buenas tardes, señora Guadalupe. No sé si antes de empezar la entrevista usted quiere decir algo, saludar. 

Guadalupe Garcia: Sí, hola. Mi nombre es Guadalupe García estoy aquí porque esta señorita, Alessandra, me va a hacer una entrevista sobre mi trabajo en la, bueno, nosotros le llamamos siempre aquí todos, la pollera de Siler City, que es Mountaire. Y, pues, aquí voy a ayudarle a esta señorita con sus preguntas que me va a hacer. A ver.

Alessandra Caceres: Gracias. Sí, gracias. Entonces, la primera pregunta que tengo para usted es, ¿usted cómo encontró el trabajo ahí en la pollera? ¿Fue por una conexión o lo encontró por internet? ¿Cómo fue que encontró esa posición en la pollera? 

Guadalupe Garcia: Ah, pues, por una conexión y, pues, estuvo, estuvo publicándose por varios tipos de periódico y mucha información cuando se iba a abrir. Y, pues, la pollera Mountaire se abrió en enero de dos mil catorce. 

Perdón, se abrió en enero del dos mil diecinueve. Yo fui una de las primeras personas que entraron cuando la pollera se abrió. Porque yo conozco una señora que trabaja ahí y ella fue la que también me dijo que iban a abrirla. Y, pues, fui de las primeras veinte personas que le pidieron entrar. Porque yo, de principio, entré por una compañía de contratista. Ah, pero, este, trabajé solo por dos años y medio. 

Después me salí y ya, pues, después regresé y ya entré por la, por la planta directo. Y ahorita ahí estoy ya con la planta, voy a tener tres años. Y, pues, lo que me gusta es que, pues, aquí está, está muy cerquita el trabajo. Y, pues, la verdad el sueldo está muy bien, está bien pagado. 

Pues, para nosotros, pues, nos pagan entrando a quince y luego a dieciséis la hora. Y, pues, tiene muy buenos beneficios como aseguranza de salud, el 401k, y este, y vacaciones pagadas. A los tres meses una semana de vacaciones pagadas, a los seis meses dos semanas. Y nos dan, este, días que le llaman ahí flotantes, que no son días libres, pero no nos pagan y tampoco nos ponen puntos como le llamamos nosotros. Y, pues, la verdad, sí, bueno, a mí me gusta porque, pues, en primera me agarra cinco minutos de aquí de mi casa. Pues, no gasto en gasolina para irme a otro lugar más lejos. Porque la verdad, sí, hay muchas personas que vienen de lejos, como de High Point, de Greensboro, Sanford. 

Y, pues, este, sí, yo admiro a estas personas porque, pues, están muy retirado para que vengan hasta acá. Y digo, pues, uno que está aquí en el pueblo y, pues, no, no trabajar ahí. Y, pues, o sea, este, digo, no, yo para qué voy a ir a buscar otro lado, a gastar tiempo, gas cuando aquí el trabajo lo tengo, lo tengo bien cerquita. Y, pues, me gusta porque anteriormente trabajé en una que estuvo antes aquí que se llamaba La Tyson.

Estuvo por muchos años y yo ahí trabajé anteriormente. Y, este, pues, aunque muchas, muchas personas no les gusta, la verdad porque está muy frío y sí, la verdad, es muy frío ahí. Está muy frío y el trabajo es muy, muy duro. Está muy, éste, la gente, pues, como que, o sea, porque sí es rápido. Por ejemplo, hay el departamento de la, de las, de La Caliente, le llamamos nosotros. 

Está “La Viva”, donde ya están matando el pollo, La Caliente. Luego ahí está el departamento de las “paws”, las patitas, luego las, las mollejas y, pues, de ahí viene donde ya empacan la pierna. Y, este, y, pues, depende el, el lugar donde uno le toque. Porque sí, hay lugares que están más suaves que otros.

Porque en la línea que le llama uno, el condibón, ahí sí está muy duro. Y, pues, mucha gente, la verdad, no aguanta. Porque son muy rápidas las líneas. Pero, bueno, digo yo, se acostumbra uno, pues y más que nada, por el sueldo. Porque, pues, sí pagan bien. Y luego, pues, ahí en el, digo, depende del trabajo que hagas, te dan más, como bonos. 

Dan bonos, aparte del sueldo, les dan bonos. Y, pues, ahí, por eso la gente, pues, es que les gusta y aguanta. Y, pues, todo depende de la, como de la experiencia que tenga. Porque sí, el trabajo es muy duro, muy rápido. 

Alessandra Caceres: Sí, claro, me parece que el trabajo ofrece bastante estabilidad. Especialmente estabilidad económica. Entonces, sí, entiendo lo que me está compartiendo. Y usted, exactamente, ¿qué hace en la pollera? Porque me estaba explicando que hay diferentes sectores.¿Usted en cuál trabaja? 

Guadalupe Garcia: Yo trabajo en el departamento de las Paws. Es patitas y la molleja, que es la gizzard. 

Ahí trabajo yo en el empaque. Empacando patitas, empacando molleja. Y, este, ahí estoy yo en ese departamento.

Alessandra Caceres: Y usted, ¿cuántas horas trabaja a la semana?

Guadalupe Garcia: Ah, pues, cuarenta. A veces sí que, a veces, este, me dicen que me quede una, una media hora o algo, pero casi regularmente las cuarenta. Ya, antes sí nos daban mucho overtime, pero ahorita ya no, eso ya lo quitaron. 

Alessandra Caceres: Ah. Solamente son cuarenta horas, ya. Cuarenta horas, ok. Y usted me mencionó que le pagaban las vacaciones también. 

Guadalupe Garcia: Pues sí, pagan vacaciones, pagan, este, días después los días feriados que hay, pues son pagados. Y, este, pues tiene buenos beneficios, te digo, cómo, pues, aseguranza de salud y, este, y además también la, la, tienen una clínica que pertenece a ellos, la clínica. Está al lado de la, de la pollera.

Alessandra Caceres: Ah, ok, qué bueno, sí que le dan esos beneficios de 401K. Y ahí en su trabajo, ¿quiénes son los compañeros que usted tiene? ¿Usted siente que hay una comunidad grande de inmigrantes? 

Guadalupe Garcia: Sí, hay demasiados, bastantes, la verdad, pues se puede decir que casi la mayor, la mayoría de personas, como es en el, como tiene dos turnos, que es primero y segundo turno, casi son puros latinos inmigrantes, la verdad. Son demasiadas. 

Alessandra Caceres: Ah, ok, y usted, y usted, ¿de dónde cree que son la mayoría? Bastantes son de México, de Centroamérica, Sudamérica?

Guadalupe Garcia: Están mixteados, fíjate, hay centroamericanos, mexicanos, pero casi, yo pienso que son más centroamericanos, como guatemaltecos, hondureños, salvadoreños, hay, yo siento que hay más que mexicanos, la verdad. 

Alessandra Caceres: Interesante, y ahí en el sector donde se trabaja, donde me dijo, de los paws, ¿cuáles son las tareas específicas que usted tiene ahí?  

Guadalupe Garcia: Ah, este, pues estoy en el empaque de la gizzard, y pues yo estoy en la pesa, y pues a veces voy a línea a empacar la patita y pues me voy a escoger, porque la estamos escogiendo la buena y la mala, y a veces pues me lleva la supervisora a otro lugar porque es la misma supervisora de las patitas con la de molleja. Y pues, así, pues hago diferentes trabajos, en la pesa, sellar bolsas, a embolsar, a este, a escoger patita, se hago.

Alessandra Caceres: Ah, entonces usted hace de todo. 

Guadalupe Garcia: Sí, ahí yo sé el trabajo. 

Alessandra Caceres: Ah, ¿y es la primera vez que usted trabaja en una pollera, o anteriormente ya había trabajado en una? 

Guadalupe Garcia: Anteriormente yo trabajé en Tyson. 

Alessandra Caceres: Ah, verdad.

Guadalupe Garcia: En Tyson trabajé como por tres años, también. 

Alessandra Caceres: Ah, ok. ¿Y usted cuál cree que son una de las dificultades de su trabajo? Y no tiene que ser solamente cosas físicas, por ejemplo, de las investigaciones que estuve haciendo por el internet, encontré que muchas personas empiezan a desarrollar artritis, a veces también les da dolor de espalda, como usted dijo, les da frío, pero también quizás daños emocionales también por trabajar varias horas. ¿Usted cree que hay aspectos difíciles en su trabajo? 

Guadalupe Garcia: Sí, la verdad, porque mira, como te digo, en la línea el trabajo es muy duro, muy pesado, porque ahí todo el tiempo están usando las manos, porque usan cuchillo, tijera, las mujeres en Black Label, que le llaman, trabajan todo el día a las ocho horas usando la tijera. En este otro departamento que le llaman el Whole Leg, ahí también todo el día. Las mujeres están con la maquinita quitándole el hueso a la pierna, y todo el día con esa máquina. 

Y sí, pues ahí hay muchas mujeres, y ahí casi es pura mujer en Black Label, pura mujer en Whole Leg, casi la mayoría de las mujeres, más bien pura mujer, ahí solo los hombres son para sacar pocas cosas. Muchas mujeres se quejan de que les duele la espalda, porque el movimiento lo tienen en los brazos y en la espalda. 

Y pues luego están en lo frío, y luego pues cuando digo, agarrando todo el tiempo, luego pues uno va al baño, se lava las manos, y pues la mano la tiene uno caliente, y se lava uno las manos, por eso es que se quejan de artritis. Luego estar parado todo el día en un solo lugar, pues sí, también hasta da frío, fíjate, porque cuando tú estás solo parada, en un solo lugar, y que no tengas como movimiento, sí da frío, pero es diferente cuando uno está en movimiento. 

Yo la verdad hasta calor me da, pero porque yo estoy moviéndome para allá, para acá, en la pesa, pues que abriendo las cajas por ejemplo. Porque yo antes trabajé en el departamento donde el cuchillo, la tijera, y ahí donde yo estoy me gusta porque ahí no usamos tijera, no usamos cuchillo, nada, solo las manos. 

Alessandra Caceres: Sí, y entiendo que usar todas esas herramientas también puede ser peligroso.¿la gerencia de su oficina ofrece algún tipo de entrenamiento sobre la seguridad, o cómo cuidarse cuando está trabajando?

Guadalupe Garcia: Sí, la verdad, cada mes, a principios del mes, cuando entra el mes, nos dan una clase que se llama “Safety class,” la verdad, es de 30 a veces 40 minutos, y nos dicen de los peligros que puede haber, de las enfermedades que uno puede agarrar. 

Por ejemplo, cuando uno se llega a cortar, que uno no debe de tocar, pues ahora sí que ya nada, avisarle rápido al supervisor, y sí, la verdad, eso sí, cuando pasa algún accidente de volada, lo atienden a uno, eso sí, ellos son muy atentos para eso, pasa algo que pues hay alguien, ya se cayó, pues ya corren todos los supervisores y todo, y pues sí, hay mucha seguridad sobre eso la verdad. 

Me gusta que cada mes nos dan una clase de seguridad sobre los peligros que uno puede haber, como incendios, cuáles son las puertas de salida, y luego hacen el, este el “Fire drill.” Y pues nos, nos dicen porqué pues es una planta muy grande, que hay muchas salidas, y pues la gente toda está regada, no sé tan pues acá ya que en el departamento allá donde el pollo ya va a salir, y pues tenemos diferentes salidas, cada departamento para salir, las puertas de salida de emergencia, y sí, la verdad, está bien.

Alessandra Caceres: Está bien, entonces, está bien que ellos ofrezcan ese entrenamiento, especialmente con mucha gente trabajando en un lugar nomás. ¿Usted con cuánta gente trabaja? 

Guadalupe Garcia: Sí, más o menos, pues la verdad, yo no tengo ni idea de cuántas personas sean, pero sí, es, es demasiada gente especialmente porque  como son dos turnos, el primero y segundo turno, y luego, pues los lavadores, sale el segundo turno, entran las personas que entran a lavar el, todo el piso puesto, a limpiar. 

Alessandra Caceres: Ah, ok. ¿Y es común que alguien tenga un accidente en el trabajo, o en algún momento usted ha tenido un accidente en el trabajo?

Guadalupe Garcia:  Sí, pues es común, porque hay veces que hay, pues, pollo tirado. Una vez en noviembre yo, incluso me caí, me resbalé una vez, porque iba con, con los cuchillos en la mano, porque los iba a poner en la línea, para cuando las personas llegaran a, a trabajar, como yo entraba temprano, yo le ayudaba a la señora a organizar los cuchillos, y los vasos que uno se pone aquí en el brazo y guantes. Y yo, pues, subí la escalera con los cuchillos, y pues no, no sé cómo me resbalé pero si me caí bien rápido, y pues hubo atención médica la verdad. Y luego, pues, como tenemos, pues, la enfermería, rápido lo llevan a una enfermería, y pues ya que lo atienden a uno.

Alessandra Caceres: Okay, sí, está bien. Sí, me parece bien eso, entonces. 

Guadalupe Garcia: Sí, sí, la verdad.

Alessandra Caceres: ¿Usted cree que otras polleras en otras partes de Carolina del Norte también tienen esa misma organización, esa misma necesidad de estar atentos a sus trabajadores? 

Guadalupe Garcia: Pues, yo no te sé decir, porque yo, la verdad, la única pollera que he trabajado solo fue en la Tyson, y aquí en esta que estoy, Montaire. Hay otra en Sanford, pero yo nunca fui a trabajar para allá, pero, pues, yo pienso, me imagino que, que todas deben ser iguales. Sí, la verdad, no tengo idea de las otras, porque sí conozco como personas, familias, que trabajan en, como en la Prestage Farms, que le llaman, pero yo no les he preguntado cómo es allá su trabajo, pues, o sea, ni como es la seguridad. 

Alessandra Caceres: Sí, claro. 

Guadalupe Garcia: Y aquí es lo que me gusta, que la seguridad está muy bien, porque te digo, cada mes, entrando el mes, ya luego nos mandan a todos a ver una clase de seguridad por 30, 40 minutos. 

Alessandra Caceres: Sí, claro. Y ahora, mi última pregunta para la entrevista es un poco sobre la experiencia que usted tuvo durante el COVID. ¿Usted estuvo trabajando en la pollera durante el COVID, o los descansaron? ¿Cómo funcionó eso? 

Guadalupe Garcia: Yo sí, la verdad, yo estuve trabajando, porque mucha gente, este, tuvo miedo y se salió, pero, pues, yo como, tú sabes, uno tiene siempre necesidad de trabajar, y pues, yo digo, pues, tengo que trabajar, y pues sí, pero, la verdad, hubo mucha protección sobre, sobre eso. 

Ellos siempre se preocuparon por proteger la gente, porque las mesas les pusieron protección para dividir a las personas cuando uno salía a comer. Y todo el tiempo uno con la mascarilla, nos pasaban a revisar que siempre tuviéramos la mascarilla puesta, arriba, de acá de la nariz, arriba, y siempre andaban los inspectores, pues, viendo ahí que uno estuviera protegido sobre, sobre eso, pues, para no contagiar. Y, pues, ya apenas uno le decía, no, pues, que me siento mal, pues, ya luego uno lo mandaban para la, para la casa. 

Alessandra Caceres: Ah, qué interesante. Sí, sé que muchas personas, especialmente inmigrantes, igual salieron a trabajar, especialmente en las factorías, entonces, admiro mucho el trabajo de usted, porque yo honestamente no creo que podría.

Guadalupe Garcia: No, yo sí. Sí, aquí mis hijos, mi esposo me decía, no vayas, salte, te vas a enfermar, y que luego nos vas a traer la enfermedad a todos aquí, porque, pues, ahí trabaja mucha gente, y tú no sabes, pero, pues, yo le dije, no, no, no hay que tener ese miedo, primero Dios que todo va a estar bien, y sí, pues, no, la verdad, no. 

Sí, me vine a enfermar, pero ya casi fue al, al último, ya casi ya, pero no fue así, fue algo leve, pero yo reporté, sí, rápido, y sí, pues, cuando uno se enfermaba, sí pagaban el tiempo que uno estaba afuera, una semana, pues, le daban a uno y le pagaban el tiempo, una semana pagada por la enfermedad del COVID.

Alessandra Caceres: Ah, qué bueno, entonces, que se sanó y que ya sigue trabajando como normal. 

Guadalupe Garcia: Sí, sí, y ahí, pues, ahí siempre nos dan la vacuna gratis del Flu, nos vacunan ahí mismo, este, bueno, las personas que quieren, porque hay muchas personas que no creen en eso y no se vacunan. Con el COVID, igual mucha gente no se quiso vacunar, porque como mucha gente son cristianos y no creen en eso, pero, pues, yo sí, la verdad, me, me vacune. 

Hasta le pagaban a uno para que se vacunara, le daban 100 dólares con tal de que uno se vacunara, 100 dólares a cada persona para que uno se vacunara. Igual hubo muchas personas que no se quisieron vacunar, pero yo sí.

Alessandra Caceres: Sí, porque me acuerdo que cuando estaba haciendo la investigación sobre las polleras, me di cuenta que los porcentajes de las personas que se habían vacunado eran bien altas, y ahora tiene sentido porque las factorías supongo que les daban ese incentivo del dinero, o también me pregunto

¿Es una obligación vacunarse ahí?

Guadalupe Garcia: No, no lo obligan a uno, no, la verdad, no, solo si la persona quiere y si no ellos respetan. Sí, no lo obligan, igual con la flu ponen los anuncios tal día se van a vacunar, si usted es la persona que quiera, y si no, pues no es obligatoria. No, pues como te digo yo, para mí, es un buen trabajo porque, pues, me queda cerca, los beneficios que ofrecen están bien, vacaciones pagadas, el 401k, luego, pues, tiene muy buenos beneficios, la verdad, la aseguranza y todo está muy bien. 

A mí me gusta, no sé, aunque a otras personas, pues, no les gusta, no sé, tal vez no están acostumbradas como al frío y todo eso, o a trabajar como con muchas personas, porque sí, pues, ahí se trabaja con muchas personas, por ejemplo, en la línea, pues, está la gente pegada, aquí uno y el otro están así, y, pues, hay mucha gente que eso tal vez no les gusta, trabajar como así muy, mucha gente, pues.

Pero, pues, ahí es un trabajo en equipo, la verdad, porque, pues, el pollo bien entero, uno le corta un brazo, el otro le corta el otro, saque la alita, el otro el otro, y que las piernas y todo se va. Así cada quien va haciendo su trabajo. Claro, sí, tiene sentido, sí. Sí, por eso, pues, a mí, para mí está bien, me gusta mi trabajo.

Alessandra Caceres: Sí, qué bueno, sí, me alegra que le guste su trabajo, y muchas gracias por compartir toda esta información.

 


Alessandra Cáceres Torres | Immigration Correspondent

Alessandra Cáceres Torres, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is passionate about Political Science and Public Policy with a minor in Spanish for the Professions. Raised in Concord, North Carolina, as the eldest daughter of Peruvian immigrants, Alessandra is deeply proud of her heritage. Witnessing her family’s struggles as undocumented immigrants inspired her to advocate for immigrant communities in her home state. She focuses on conducting qualitative research to understand the needs of farmworkers and refugees in rural Eastern North Carolina, the Research Triangle, and the Charlotte Metro area. Currently, Alessandra serves as a community outreach assistant at the Refugee Community Partnership in Carrboro, where she helps Spanish-speaking families navigate healthcare settings and provides social and emotional support. With aspirations to attend law school and become an immigration attorney, she is committed to empowering immigrants and sharing their stories.