John McCulloch is the assistant general manager at the United Beef Packers Blue River processing plant in Nebraska. He has recently started at the plant and has quickly become unhappy with how the workers are treated, as they seem to be working in very dangerous conditions because of the company’s commitment to efficiency. Workers have to sign a document waiving their right to medical opinions outside of company doctors. One worker, Bobby Vasquez, has been with the plant since the 1970s and has suffered several injuries on the job. Some of these injuries were the result of improper protection offered by the plant, and in some cases the company medical doctors grossly ...view middle of the document...
The Workers at United Beef Packers
The workers at the plant are being treated the way Vasquez is being treated, and if McCulloch stands up for him it is possible that things will change. If McCulloch goes to the media with information about conditions in the plant it is possible they will have their working conditions improved. However, it is also possible that the company will lay off the workers and try to find even cheaper work if they need to spend money improving safety conditions. The workers likely feel they are being paid well and they probably would prefer to keep their jobs and deal with the risk (if the alternative is losing their job). However, they also might like the idea of someone standing up for them; one day they might be hurt like Vasquez.
Owners and Operators of United Beef Packers
If McCulloch refuses to fire Vasquez the owners will do it themselves and possibly find a new assistant general manager. However, if McCulloch goes to the media or the USDA about what he has seen, they could face significant losses in profit. Oddly enough, it seems they are legally immune to a mandatory recall. The bad publicity could still lead to losses in profit and it could even mobilize people to push the government to pay more attention to how things are being done at packing plants. If things continue going as normal, they will likely remain safe and wealthy. They are obviously predisposed to ignore the wellbeing of their workers since their actions indicate they are just maximizing profit.
The American Public (and anyone who Eats UBF Beef)
The people eating the meat from UBF obviously have a vested interest in having the plant improve the quality of the meat, so that consumers do not get sick. Furthermore, the ability of companies to get away with such gross violations of worker rights and product safety is bad for the majority of people, and if the media and the government focused more on these things then everyone would benefit from living in a country where companies cannot get away such things.
One of the primary ethical issues here is the treatment of people working at the plant. The operators are not protecting them because they are more concerned with maximizing profits. Another ethical issue is the treatment of people eating meat, since the sale of tainted beef puts them at risk. In opposition to these ethical issues stands the need to make profit as a business: UBP provides a public service by selling huge amounts of beef that do not get people sick. However, one could argue that they are not performing a public service if it requires treating people unethically and selling large amounts of tainted meat. The issues of meat quality and worker safety are also balanced against the personal financial and career benefits to McCulloch.
Changes Resulting in the Emergence of Ethical Issue(s)
In the early 1980s, the recession hit the meat packing industry hard. And consolidation...