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Memorial Vigil Honors Victims Killed In Gainesville Poultry Plant Nitrogen Leak

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- Members of several labor organizations held a vigil across from Foundation Food Group, the poultry plant where officials say a nitrogen leak killed six workers and injured several others. "When we have unsafe environments, we need people that will speak out on their behalf, and that is why we all came together here," said Sandra Williams, the executive director of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council.

Three months after the incident and 50 years since lawmakers passed the OSHA Act, activists say the company's inaction caused the deaths. "This is the 50-year anniversary of that act, and we still have workers at a plant that have died needlessly," said Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council President James Williams. "This company has a history of accidents and unsafe working conditions, and we need that straightened up," said Sandra Williams.

Many of the workers are undocumented immigrants. "No immigrant workers were up here, other than when the poultry companies started them working, and they're the ones who brought them in to abuse them," said Edgar Fields, the president of the Southeast Council for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. He says workers have had no input in terms of safety regulations. "Gainesville has a lot of history of people that have been downtrodden, people that have been abused, and people without rights," Fields said. "We are looking and waiting on Foundation Food Group to actually pay their employees for the days of the nitrogen leak," said Georgia Familias Unidas Director of Public Affairs Paul Glaze.

A February 7 U.S. Chemical Safety Board report indicates unresolved operational issues with a chicken conveyor caused the leak. The board and several agencies are still investigating it. "We actually had a member of the Department of Labor speak to us today. They are doing an investigation," said James Williams.

CW69 reached out to Foundation Food Group for comment on the allegations, and there was no immediate response.

The labor unions are calling on everyone to support the Pro Act, which protects the rights of workers to organize in the United States. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched an effort to stop the act, indicating it would disrupt the economy and undermine workers' rights, if passed.

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