Major outbreaks of the coronavirus among workers in meatpacking plants have brought renewed public scrutiny to a hazardous industry. Working conditions had improved through the mid-twentieth century, after investigations by muckraking journalist Upton Sinclair and others early in the century exposed unsafe and unsanitary practices. But benefits and protections for workers have steadily eroded in recent decades, due to the decline of unions and rise of globalized trade and labor sourcing. The backsliding in an industry with a mostly immigrant workforce occurred largely out of the public eye, until the pandemic raised concerns about the food supply.

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