Hidden behind the Banco del Sol and the Tienda El Nino is the economic pillar of this rural town: A massive factory that processes 130,000 chickens a day. Inside, headless plucked birds move along conveyor belts while 300 workers, in repeated deft strokes, slice each passing carcass into chunks of kitchen-ready meat.
For years, most poultry workers here were Mexican immigrants, including some who were in the country illegally. But last fall, after a tough state law against illegal immigrants took effect, many vanished overnight, rattling the town’s large Hispanic community and leaving the poultry business scrambling to find workers willing to stand for hours in a wet, chilly room, cutting up dead chickens.
“Even someone born and raised in Albertville may not have the necessary skills or be able to pass a background check,” said Frank Singleton, a spokesman for Wayne Farms, which owns the slaughterhouse. The firm held a job fair that attracted about 250 local residents, but few were hired, and some soon quit, daunted by the demanding work. Since the law took effect, he said, “our turnover rate has gone through the roof.”