Health & Safety
Meat processing is considered one of the most dangerous industries in the U.S. The Government Accountability Office has found that meat and poultry processing is “among the most dangerous” occupations in the U.S. Workers face numerous injuries:
Acute injuries including cuts, amputations, and crush injuries.
Repetitive motion injuries from making the same movements over and over at the fastest possible speed, including Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Workers also suffer from back and muscle strain.
Poultry companies break federal laws by scheming to under-report injuries at their factories which saves them money and reduces oversight. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) decides how often to inspect workplaces based on the number of reported injuries. Workers’ Compensation rates are based on the number of claims.
Undermining Workers’ Compensation Protection
Each workplace injury which needs medical care or causes a worker to be unable to work must be reported to OSHA. Untold numbers of injuries are not reported. Poultry processing companies have several strategies to prevent workers from filing for Workers Compensation: having workers come in injured to work on “light duty” (which often entails sitting for the entire shift in the cafeteria); most workers believe that any worker who files a Workers’ Comp claim will subsequently be fired; workers face close scrutiny and possible discipline for reporting any accident — discouraging them from reporting an accident which resulted in an injury.
Violations of Minimum Wage and Overtime Laws
There are repeated violations of wage payment laws at poultry plants throughout the country. Workers are paid for fewer hours than they actually work. They are not properly paid for overtime.
The majority of poultry processing is in the South. At one time, the workers were poor blacks and whites. Now, there are more immigrant workers.
Additional Information on Working Conditions
- The Cruelest Cuts Charlotte Observer, 2008
- Unsafe at These Speeds A Report by the Southern Poverty Law Center & Alabama Appleseed, 2013.
- Blood, Sweat, and Fear, Human Rights Watch Report, 2004
- Musculoskeletal Disorders and Traumatic Injuries Among Employees at a Poultry Processing Plant, NIOSH Interim Report, 2013
- At Chicken Plants, Chemicals Blamed for Health Ailments Are Poised to Proliferate Washington Post, April, 2013