The Texas Observer and the Texas Democracy Foundation announced today that ProPublica reporter Michael Grabell and NPR’s Howard Berkes are the winners of the 2018 MOLLY National Journalism Prize for their “Sold for Parts” series.
In the project’s first story, Grabell uncovered exploitative employment practices by Case Farms, a major chicken supplier for Kentucky Fried Chicken and Boar’s Head. For decades, the company has recruited and relied on undocumented immigrant workers, subjecting them to harsh, at times illegal, conditions. Yet if they protested or were injured on the job or protested, Case Farms used their undocumented status to get rid of them.
Grabell then teamed with Berkes to explore a different twist on the scandal. They analyzed 14 years of Florida insurance data to expose how employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers’ compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. The reporters also identified Florida’s biggest culprits in the business community.
The stories had immediate impact. In Ohio, Grabell’s stark reporting on Case Farms helped defeat a state measure that would have barred undocumented immigrants from receiving workers’ compensation. And after the Florida story ran, state legislators there pledged to review the workers’ compensation provisions that allowed employers and insurance companies to act like immigration agents. One leading Republican legislator called the effects of those rules, “borderline unconscionable.”
“Lost Mothers,” a ProPublica and NPR collaboration on the maternal mortality crisis in the U.S., earned one of two honorable mentions in the MOLLY competition. ProPublica reporters Nina Martin, Adriana Gallardo and Annie Waldman, along with NPR correspondent Renee Montagne, worked on the project.