Hunter College announced today that the ProPublica and NPR series “Sold for Parts” won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.
In the series’ first piece, ProPublica reporter Michael Grabell told the story of how Case Farms, a major chicken supplier for Kentucky Fried Chicken, Boar’s Head, and others, built its business by recruiting some of the world’s most vulnerable immigrants. Undocumented, and some underage, these workers were subjected to harsh and illegal workplace conditions. But if they protested or were injured on the job, the company used the workers’ undocumented status to get rid of them.
To document this hidden scandal, Grabell spent time in Rust Belt towns and rural North Carolina talking to skittish workers and immigration advocates. He gained rare access to the front lines of a Case Farms chicken plant in Ohio, and traveled to the highlands of Guatemala to see first-hand what had happened to injured workers after Case Farms summarily disposed of them.
Grabell then teamed with Howard 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 story had a direct impact on policy. In Ohio, lawmakers cited Grabell’s stark reporting on Case Farms to help defeat a state measure that would have barred undocumented immigrants from receiving workers’ compensation. In Florida, state legislators pledged to review the workers’ compensation provisions that allowed employers and insurance companies to act like immigration agents.
Learn more about the Aronson Award here.