50 years ago, meatpacking used to be a highly skilled and highly paid blue collar trade. One of the big reasons being their strong unionization. I was wondering if the trade is still as respected (and high paying)? Or has mechanization and declining union power changed that?
I can only describle how it was 20 years ago. Small plants paid $7-10 an hour, union, or $6-8, non-union, in Upstate New York. This was an industry with a lot of local variation. I saw a documentary once about a strike at a Hormel plant in Minnesota in the late 80s where Union workers were making $6.30.
In both cases, there were benefits, although I believe the union package was much better. That was when the minimum wage was $3.35 an hour, so to a teenager this seemed like a king’s ransom. To somone in mid-career, It was much less impressive.
The skill level required at entry level wasn’t much more than moving heavy things and not getting injured, but the company would provide training for higher-level work. In a union, I believe there was an established process for bringing an entry-level worker along in skill sets.
You might want to read (or re-read) “Fast Food Nation.” Just check the chapters describing what automation has done to the meat processing/meat packing trade.
The chicken-processing trade, and I believe the meatpacking industry, has seen a huge influx of (legal or mostly illegal) immigrant labor. This doesn’t seem conducive to sustaining high wages.