With Fewer Refugees, Who Will Work At Greeley's Meatpacking Plants?
By Esther Honig, KUNC
Feb 5, 2019
At his one-room apartment, 35-year-old Abul Basar made a tight fist with his right hand. As he opened his palm, his ring finger remained bent and rigid. "It's locked my finger, (it) doesn't work," he said.
Basar came to the area as a refugee in 2017 after escaping violent persecution in his former country of Burma, also known as Myanmar. He said he fled to Bangladesh and then Thailand and eventually Indonesia, where he was detained for nearly a year by immigration authorities. Today, he's relieved to be in the U.S.
"This was very difficult times," he said. "There was no work over there, just eating (and) sleeping, that's it."
He shares a home with his wife and two young children — who he hopes will aspire to be lawyers or doctors. He's happy here. But he said didn't realize the work would be so difficult.
"It's a very hard job," he said. "JBS is not easy."
Like many of the refugees living in Greeley, Basar is employed by JBS, a massive meatpacking plant that processes thousands of cattle per day and employees over 3,000 people. Basar said it was his caseworker who helped him apply for a position on the processing line where he used a large electric knife to disembowel cow carcasses. After only a few months at the plant, his hands began to hurt.
Less than two years later and Basar is already dealing with an injury to one hand, which doctors said was caused by making the same repetitive motion day after day. Soon he'll meet with a specialist who will determine if it requires surgery. In the meantime, his work has re-assigned him to a lighter task, folding cardboard boxes.
An industry reliant on refugees ...
Working with few options ...
"I have a country right now" ...
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