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wouldn’t have made much difference to the jury. In the words of juror Patricia Hill, “By the end of the first day I was ready to write him [Escamilla] a check a large one.” During the second day’s lunch break IBP agreed to settle for $1.3 million. Andreas Estrada was not so fortunate. Shortly after the Escamilla case was settled, Estrada told Escamilla’s lawyers that in 1992, the company had paid him $7,500 for the loss of his fingers, then put him back to work on the same machine. When IBP wouldn’t let him switch to a different position \(one without such trauThe settlement will help Escamilla and his family, but there’s little reason to believe IBP has changed its ways because of what’s happened. “Workers come into my office and they want justice,” Glasheen says. “And I have to tell them, all we can do is hit them [IBP] where it hurts, by taking their money.” The problems are systemic, and they are not just at IBP: Glasheen’s firm represents over three hundred Excel workers, but it won’t be able to accept any more Excel clients. The plant’s UFCW local has written into its labor agreement a blanket waiver of an injured worker’s right to sue no Terry Zimmerman-style antics required and this, too, has been upheld by Texas courts. According to Glasheen, “bad law” has made the meatpacking plants what they are: “The law sets the structure up in which the employers operate. Any corporate entity is going to try to maximize profits; if you create a situation where they can make more money by abusing people legally, then that’s what they’re going to do.” State law is surely a major factor, and weak unions offer no protection though considering the history of a company like IBP, and the nature of its current practices, one wonders how far better regulations and better legal remedies would go to fix things. Still, in theory it wouldn’t be hard to require companies to slow down the chain, to subscribe to workers’ compensation, to send all workers to periodic checkups with the doctor of their choice, to be subject to more rigorous inspection. Klumpe estimates that on the day shift \(the preferred shift of the kill floor workers would seek medical treatment if they were guaranteed immunity from company repercussions. The meatpacking plants remind lawyer Chris Carver of the old P.T. Barnum boxcar that contained a live lion, a live tiger, a live bear, and a live, unscathed, lamb, under the heading “The Perfect Family.” “When people asked him how he did it, Barnum said, `Well, ‘every so often you’ve got to change out the lamb.’ With the requirements of the jobs out theie, every so often you’ve got to change out the lambs, change out the workers, I think that’s what’s really going on.” One small hope is that in the wake of cases like Escamilla’s, more workers will refuse to sign the waivers, even though they can be fired for doing so. Danny Chambers didn’t sign: two weeks after Escamilla’s injury last year, while working on the maintenance crew, Chambers was sent to count boxes of small bone in a storage facility known as “the Block building.” This task required him to walk over grates that lay above a pit. He had complained to his supervisor before that one of the 3-by-4 grates was missing, but nothing was done about it. At around 11 p.m., Chambers fell halfway through the hole left by the missing grate, breaking several ribs and puncturing his lung. He was unable to pull himself out, and there was no one else in the building. He lay there about fifteen minutes trying to catch his breath, and then for another thirty minutes he struggled to get out, thinking he would probably die if he fell the ten feet into the pit. When he extricated himself at last, coughing up dirt and blood, and went to his supervisor, Chambers was told to go sit in the office. An hour later, he was given an Ace bandage. He was then told he would have to wait until Monday, when the head nurse came in, to get permission to go to the hospital. Chambers went home. For the next two days, while his side turned “black, purple, green, every color of the rainbow,” he sat curled up in a La-Z-Boy, crying. “I was crying, I was in severe pain, I could not sleep…. My father tried to get me to go the hospital, but I told my father the hospital would not accept me.” He took pain medication a dentist had given him when he had his tooth pulled. On Monday, his father drove him out to IBP. The nursing staff took a urine sample and then allowed him to go to the hospital. “As soon as I got to the hospital they gave me medication, put me straight in a room, and for twenty-four hours it was fifty-fifty whether or not they’d have to give me a chest tube [to reinflate the lung.]” It reinflated by itself on Tuesday. Terry Zimmerman paid a visit to the hospital shortly thereafter. “He had his yellow legal pad and was wanting another waiver,” Chambers says. “My dad told him what he thought of their protocols, and he [Zimmerman] didn’t say nothing else.” Chambers didn’t sign a waiver. He was fired in May. Chambers’ suit against the company is pending. The day after I interviewed Teamsters local president Jerry McCown for this story, IBP public affairs officer Gary Mickelson contacted me, saying he’d heard “through the grapevine” that I was writing about the company. The following comments later arrived by fax: “We at IBP don’t want to see anyone hurt on the job. That’s why we have extensive worker training and safety programs designed to protect our employees. However, if someone does get hurt; we take immediate steps to make sure they receive proper treatment. Our Workplace Injury Settlement Program was instituted seven years ago as a means to more effectively ensure quality medical care for employees injured on the job. Its structure is similar to Texas workers’ compensation, however, it actually pays the employee more in benefits than would be available under Texas law.” IBP has sued Klumpe, Blackburn, and Glasheen for theft of trade secrets. It has not yet installed a dual trigger on the top-line hock cutter. Research support for this article was provided by the Dick Goldensohn Fund and the Observer’s Investigative Reporting Fund. “ANY CORPORATE ENTITY IS GOING TO TRY TO MAXIMIZE PROFITS; IF YOU CREATE A SITUATION WHERE THEY CAN MAKE MORE MONEY BY ABUSING PEOPLE LEGALLY, THEN THAT’S WHAT THEY’RE GOING TO DO.” 14 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 22, 1998