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Chris Escamilla Courtesy KVII News people wouldn’t sign the waivers,” says Kevin Glasheen, Escamilla’s lawyer. “But IBP bet they would still pay less over the long run, and they’ve been proven right.” The waiver has become the key to the company’s cost-control strategy, the linchpin of a system that relies on the plant’s easily intimidated, largely immi grant, replenishable workforce, its complaisant union \(signing the waiver is “up to the individual,” according to Teamsters Local 577 president Jerry McCown, who added that “Iowa Beef are very Texas law has offered no protection against IBP’s waiver policy. The few injured workers who found lawyers to represent them did not succeed in court. “Every once in a while somebody would come up to bat and strike out,” says Glasheen, whose firm turned down IBP cases at first. “We were getting calls periodically, like every three months,” from injured workers, he said. “But none were cases we could take: if you take on the beefpackers, you’ve got to have enough clients to make it feasible economically. It’s going to cost $50,000 up front just to learn about their program.” Then, in 1996, maintenance worker Eddie Roberts approached Glasheen about a back injury. “I started talking to him about this wage and hour case we were doing for the Excel maintenance workers, about how they weren’t getting their lunch breaks and so on, and he said the same thing was going on at IBP.” Roberts organized thirty other maintenance workers to file suit against the company, and last year, the workers won. “Once we had all those guys in, we started getting a whole bunch of injury case calls, and we started doing discovery on that.” Glasheen’s four-lawyer firm has thus far spent well over $300,000 on its IBP litigation, not counting lawyer time. Steve Klumpe was one of IBP’s boys off the farm. Raised on a farm in Liberal, Kansas, Klumpe went to work for the company’s Emporia plant in 1980, right after he graduated from high school. In 1987 he transferred to the Amarillo plant, where he worked his way up the chain of command, becoming superinten dent of slaughter on the afternoon shift. He started his own land scaping business on the side, married an Amarillo woman, and helped to raise her children. When her son turned eighteen, Klumpe encouraged him to apply for a job at the plant. Though Sulema Klumpe didn’t want him working on the kill floor, the boy had married at fifteen and was supporting his wife and kids by working two fast-food jobs. At IBP, Klumpe told him, he could move up quickly, as Klumpe himself had. Klumpe is a reserved man of thirty-seven, whose jutting brow and deep-set eyes and low voice make him seem older than he is. He’ll often answer a question with a slow nod and a “You bet.” Until he was fired by the company last year, he had been tardy once, in 1986. If it weren’t for the deliberation of his speech, and the bitter, mostly unspoken acknowledgement of his own complicity in what has gone on at IBP, it would be difficult to believe his description of the workplace. Sitting in the office of his lawyer Jeff Blackburn, Klumpe explained his former management style. As a supervisor, he said, he helped train workers to ignore their injuries. “A new employee don’t know the difference between pain and break-in pain,” says Klumpe. “I’ll play with your mind: ‘I think it’s just break-in pain. I’m the boss, I’ve been here seventeen years, I know.”‘ Often that discussion would take place in the long hallway between the kill floor and the nurses’ station. “Nobody goes to the dispensary without a foreman there,” Klumpe said. “You walk down that long hallway, and it’s just you and that person. If it’s something you can’t see, you tell them to tell the nurses they’re okay, time will heal it, and they’ll just rub it down a little with Icy Hot and go back to work.” Supervisors always seem to know when OSHA inspectors are due to visit, he said, and workers are told to sign and back-date requisite forms. As for safety on the floor, “they [OSHA] don’t know if something needs a guard or not.” \(A spokesman for OSHA said the agency never announces its visits in advance; yet another former IBP employee, Lonita Leal, recalled being instructed to turn off one machine, which had an exhaust problem, just before an inspector’s Within the company, safety concerns go unheard. “If you can’t put a dollar figure on why you want to change something, if you can’t benefit by, for example, eliminating a person or making some yield improvement to make the company money, they ain’t going to do it,” Klumpe said in deposition. “Safety is not a reason to fix something. You must have a payback to it. You can’t throw safety at it.” In the ten years he worked at the Amarillo plant, Klumpe says, the chain speed was increased three times. “There’s always people getting hurt because they can’t keep up, then losing their jobs over it. You either keep up, or they fire you and get someone new who don’t know no different.” Those new workers were typically “Spanish, Orientals, Kuwaitis, the bunch of them uneducated: that’s who they target.” Another duty of the supervisor was to get workers with reportable injuries to sign the waiver: “With nonserious accidents, THE COMPANY’S COST-CONTROL STRATEGY… A SYSTEM THAT RELIES ON THE PLANT’S EASILY INTIMIDATED, LARGELY IMMIGRANT, REPLENISHABLE WORKFORCE, ITS COMPLAISANT UNION AND BUSINESS-FRIENDLY LAWS. MAY 22, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11