Refugees seek chicken-processing jobs in Noel, MO
Posted by Christopher Coen on June 10, 2012
The small Ozarks town of Noel in southern Missouri is the site of secondary and tertiary migration of refugees seeking jobs at a Tyson chicken-processing plant. Some locals don’t want any changes to the community, including gun-totting local men, while others such as the mayor have welcomed the new residents. An article at The Kansas City Star explains recent developments in Noel:
NOEL, Mo. — The Elk River makes the turn under the overhanging cliffs at the edge of this Ozarks town to flow just below the quaint business district.
On a recent afternoon, customers shopped for fresh eggs and calf feed in Landon’s Feed & Seed. A man touched his brim to two women coming out of the cafe. Senior citizens chatted in front of the post office.
Then a young man’s shout filled the street: “F… you, n…..r!”
He jumped in a pickup where a friend waited and sped away. Inside an old storefront, now an Islamic mosque, those preparing to pray carried on.
It happens here, the n-word. Other slurs for other people, too. From the heart they come — loud, with spit.
And the river keeps rolling. Doing what it’s done for decades — bring visitors to pretty little Noel, nicknamed the Christmas City…
…“Some people don’t hide the fact they don’t like what’s going on here,” said Mayor James Carroll, who tries to keep things calm.
There’s no denying a seething undertone of discomfort bred by a mixing of cultures. The town gets too quiet, with too many stares. Some people are scared.
In recent years, hundreds of immigrants have come to Noel to work in a Tyson Foods chicken plant…
…Two other people told The Star they wouldn’t care a lick if the Tyson plant and its 1,500 jobs burned to the ground. Some here think more of those jobs should have gone to locals.
Last October, about 130 mostly Somali workers walked out of the plant during a dispute with officials over prayer time. As they gathered on Main Street, fear grew that the incident could turn violent. Several armed local men were stopped by law enforcement, according to Carroll, the mayor.
A dozen Highway Patrol troopers and sheriff’s officials arrived in force…
…Today, nearly a thousand of the plant’s 1,500 workers are considered minorities, Sparkman said. Hourly wages run from $9.05 to $10.70, with the average on the high end.
The plant, next to the River Ranch Resort and across from Rosa’s Mexican Store, runs 24/7, three shifts. Tractor-trailers constantly run in and out — live chickens going in, packaged legs, thighs and boneless breasts headed out.
The processing work is hard, dangerous, cold, and, according to workers, a little nasty. But it is meat processing. Nasty is on the menu.
Still, workers appreciate Tyson for giving them jobs. Whatever the duty, it is better than what they had before.
“Somalis come from a place of civil war,” said Farah Burale, who works at Tyson and helps foreign workers get accustomed to working in America. “There was no government. No police. Kids with AK-47s. They all know somebody killed there.
“Here, they work, make money to live and even send some home.”
Noel works better for them than a large city. Rent here is usually only $450 or so. They live cheap.
Plus, as Burale said: “Chicken plants don’t need English.”…Read more here