Officials at the union representing workers at a Sanderson Farms chicken processing plant in Hazlehurst, Miss., are calling for the company to improve the unsafe working conditions and the racial insensitivity in the facility.

"(Sanderson Farms) has more pride in their product than they do their people," said Sherri Jones, a field representative for the Laborers International Union of North America Local 693. "This is 2012, and things need to change."

According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the union claims that the workers have been forced to work in 100-degree temperatures without being allowed adequate air conditioning or to take water or bathroom breaks. One white supervisor is reported to have told a black employee that the company considers the plant workers “slaves.” The union calls the company’s bathroom facilities unsafe to use and says that the plant’s high turnover rate is due to the facility letting go older or unionized employees.

"There was no air. It was hot. It was nasty," said Chris Jefferson, who worked at the plant for four years before being fired, he says, for confronting a supervisor over working conditions. "They never sprayed down anything. I would almost pass out.”

In the press conference announcing its claims, union officials displayed photos of bruised and calloused hands of employees who suffered from repetitive-motion injuries on the job.

The company did not issue a statement regarding the union’s claims.

Source: Jackson Clarion-Ledger