USDA Rejects Poultry Industry Petition to Speed Up Factory Lines

Following is a statement from Debbie Berkowitz, senior fellow for worker safety and health with the National Employment Law Project and a former senior official with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, on the USDA’s rejection of the National Chicken Council’s petition to increase line speeds in chicken plants:

“Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rejected the poultry industry’s petition to broadly increase line speeds at which chickens are slaughtered and butchered in poultry processing plants across the country—a request that would have endangered the health of consumers and the safety of hundreds of thousands of workers.

“The USDA received more than 100,000 comments on this petition, with all but a handful of comments opposed the poultry industry’s request.

“Poultry workers already face harsh and dangerous conditions, and there is evidence that the new poultry inspection system is not delivering on the promised public health benefit to consumers.

“The highly profitable poultry industry, which already pays poverty wages and keeps workers in disturbingly unsafe and unhealthy workplaces, should stop lobbying the government to allow it to further endanger workers. Instead, it should lift labor standards for the 250,000 workers who help feed this nation.

“NELP calls on the USDA to follow the law and announce any new system for individual waivers in the Federal Register for public notice and comment. Further, the USDA must be open and transparent and publish on its website every request they receive for a waiver of line speeds  and make them available for public notice and comment. ”

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