Thursday, July 30, 2020

Poultry workers' unions sue USDA over line speed waivers

"The union representing workers at chicken processing plants in six states sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday, saying its policy of allowing companies to slaughter birds more quickly endangers workers and makes it more difficult to protect against spread of the coronavirus," David Pitt reports for The Associated Press. "The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and local unions representing 10 plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri joined with nonprofit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen to file the lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed plants to waive line speed caps in 2018, after it said the issue had been studied via pilot programs for 25 years. However, "the unions said in court documents that an average of eight workers per year died on the job between 2013 and 2017 in poultry processing plants, and that workers commonly suffer sprains, lacerations, and contusions," Pitt reports. "They contend that research and worker experience shows work speed is a major contributing factor to the high injury rates suffered by poultry workers."

Senate Democrats introduced a bill on Tuesday that would block faster line speeds at meatpacking plants during the pandemic and suspend line-speed waivers already issued, Chuck Abbott reports for Successful Farming.

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