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July 02, 2020 - Monthly Review

USA: Poultry and Prisons - Racial Capitalism and COVID-19

USA: Poultry and Prisons - Racial Capitalism and COVID-19
Poultry Workers Cut and Trim ChickensFile Photo / © Photabulous!

On April 28, 2020, Donald Trump utilized the Defense Production Act to keep meat-processing plants open.

As of this writing, twenty-two plants have closed, if only temporarily, after large numbers of workers tested positive for COVID-19.1 Yet, the number of worker deaths across the industry, including four workers at a Tyson chicken-processing plant in Camilla, Georgia, continues to rise. Black workers, who make up a majority of the Tyson plant’s workforce, live in neighboring Dougherty county.

This county was once central to the cotton-producing region of the Black Belt, constructed through the violence of plantation slavery entwined with the productivity of the soil.3 The legacy of these entanglements continues to shape the regional infrastructures of racial capitalism evident in the dominance of the poultry industry.

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