Against a backdrop of a recall of 380 million eggs and thousands of Salmonella illnesses nationwide, numerous commentators have been pointing out the long history of violations amassed by Wright County Egg owner Jack DeCoster.
Yesterday ABC news reported on DeCoster’s past. There have been labor problems:
In the summer of 1996 when DeCoster was made to pay more than $3 million in fines after the U.S. Labor Department found dead chickens being picked up by workers with bare hands. The complaint also stated that DeCoster’s workers also lived beside manure and rat-infested trailers, according to the Associated Press. The complaint led to a boycott of DeCoster’s eggs by several major supermarkets.
Former National Secretary of Labor Robert Reich added these comments:
Thirteen years ago when I was Secretary of Labor, DeCoster agreed to pay a $2 million penalty (the most we could throw at him) for some of the most heinous workplace violations I’d seen.
There have been environmental violations:
In 2000, the Iowa attorney general dubbed DeCoster a "habitual violator" of the state’s environmental laws and ordered him to pay a $150,000 fine. DeCoster had failed to properly dispose of the hog and chicken manure and had let it run into a nearby creek.
And sexual harassment as well:
In 2002 the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission fined DeCoster’s operation $1.5 million for mistreating female workers. The charges included rape, sexual harassment, and other abuses.
And let’s not leave out animal cruelty from this fine resume:
Earlier this year, DeCoster pleaded guilty to 10 counts of animal cruelty over his company’s treatment of its chickens. In June, DeCoster was ordered to pay more than more than $100,000 in fines and restitution, a ruling that is considered one of the landmark animal cruelty cases in history.
The extent of the damage caused by the current Salmonella outbreak will be difficult to fully assess. The actual number of ill will dwarf those recognized through positive stool cultures. For each of those ill people, what will the medical expenses be? The lost production and work days?