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North Carolina chicken king Edgar Marvin Johnson must feel like he’s been tarred and feathered by The Charlotte Observer. If the Observer’s reports are correct it’s hard to imagine even Johnson’s own mother buying a chicken from his House of Raeford Farms.



According to the Observer, Johnson is akin to the worst villain Upton Sinclair ever dreamed up in The Jungle. Reading The Observer it appears Mr. Johnson does not care a whit about his employees’ broken bones, amputated fingers, and he never heard of carpel-tunnel syndrome. Instead his goal is to keep his factory lines moving full speed and misleading the government inspectors about accidents so no one looks too closely at his operation.



Think I’m exaggerating? Consider this example: The Observer reports that a conveyor belt in Mr. Johnson’s plant in Columbia snagged a worker’s “glove, snapped her right arm and ripped off the end of her finger.” She was rushed to the hospital. Then hours after surgery, as she was recovering, a House of Raeford nurse showed up to inform her the company expected her back at work the next day.



The Observer has put its stamp of approval on these stories, run them under it’s masthead and told readers these are true reports about how Marvin Johnson runs his business. They’re standing behind their stories, and, apparently, are willing to except the consequences should Mr. Johnson decide to prove they’re wrong.



But he hasn’t done that. He hasn’t sued The Observer for $10 million for libeling him and, given his failure to strenuously exercise his right to free speech, next he might be wise to expect government regulators to descend on him hammer and tongs.



One other, more minor fact: Someone should ask the United Food and Commercial Workers Union – which represents workers in several of Johnson’s plants – why it’s been AWOL. It’s hard to understand – given the reports in The Observer – why the union hasn’t been vociferously exercising it’s right to free speech too.



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