The Counter has a good report on troubling working conditions at a Mountaire Farms poultry plant in Robeson County, North Carolina.

Mountaire Farms, the fourth largest poultry producer in the nation, is owned by Ronald Cameron of Little Rock, a reclusive mega-donor to Republican politicians, including millions to organizations that backed Donald Trump. The company, incorporated in Delaware, was founded in Little Rock. It has facilities in Arkansas, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.

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Ugly scene in North Carolina, the Counter reports, as starting four months ago, workers noticed chemical causing a noxious odor that felt like it “invaded your brain”:

“It stings your eyes and throat; it’s like a burning in your nasal cavity,” said Sharon, an immigrant who has worked at Mountaire’s Lumber Bridge plant for more than a decade and asked not to be identified by her real name because she fears retaliation from her employer. “Whatever it is, it gives us headaches and it makes us sneeze. It causes a lot of mucus and it makes it feel like your throat is cracking. It’s something in the water with the chickens because if the mist gets in your eyes, it stings like acid.”

It’s unclear what the chemical is, and the company won’t say (workers speculate that it could be something being used to combat a contamination at the plant or an outbreak such as salmonella, but nothing has been confirmed).

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From the Counter:

Even though Mountaire workers say they are being exposed to an unidentified chemical in what they call “overwhelming doses” over long shifts, they told The Counter that the company has still not told them what the chemical is, the potential hazards it poses to their health—and, most important—how to protect themselves during exposure.

 

The Counter approached Mountaire Farms on five separate occasions with requests to identify the chemical that workers began to smell earlier this summer, as well as to confirm the plant adheres to safety protocols, among other questions. The company did not respond.

For more on Cameron and Mountaire, revisit Jane Mayer’s expose in the New Yorker from last year; the Counter’s excellent story has all the gory details on the current doings in Robeson County.

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