On Thursday we read a rather late review of Upton Sinclair's 1906 muckraking novel "The Jungle" in the Wall Street Journal. We were intrigued by this paragraph: "Yet it's nice to think that if he had lived a little longer, Sinclair might have had some second thoughts about the ideas he expressed in "The Jungle." Capitalism has served the huddled masses rather well. The descendents of Sinclair's exploited workers don't toil on the kill floors of meatpacking factories. Instead, they occupy better jobs as fully assimilated Americans. They also eat safe meat, processed for them by a new generation of immigrant laborers from Latin America and Southeast Asia -- people whose lives are no doubt challenging, but also full of the realistic optimism that one day they will be no longer tired, no longer poor, and breathing free. Sinclair's problem was that, unlike them, he couldn't see the jungle for the trees. "
On the same day we read Grist's article on chicken farming "In rural America, the poultry companies can get workers for a song, and the workers are so grateful to get the jobs," says Jackie Nowell of the United Food and Commercial Workers. These workers -- usually poor, and often African American or Hispanic -- "are exposed to feces [and] any disease the chicken has," Nowell says. "There are also horrible levels of dust and dander inside these houses.... Workers in poultry processing plants also face serious dangers from machinery, carpal tunnel syndrome, and health hazards such as contaminated microorganisms and dust. "There are huge health and safety violations in every plant."
We suspect that in exactly 100 years, exactly nothing has changed. We wonder- which to you think is a more accurate representation?