SPLC statement on GAO report about working conditions at poultry plants

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report today about working conditions at poultry plants. As the SPLC has been saying for years, many safety problems in poultry processing are rooted in incredibly fast line speeds and the unrelenting pace of work that they demand.

Poultry plants consistently put production above worker health and safety. This not only leads to repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel, it also prevents workers from taking bathroom breaks, as the GAO reported.  

The National Chicken Council (NCC) recently asked the USDA to waive all line speed limits in poultry plants. The current limit of 140 birds per minute is already too high; just imagine what the poultry industry would do if it didn’t have any limits. The SPLC submitted comments opposing the NCC’s waiver request, and met with the USDA as part of a broad coalition of worker advocacy groups that urged the agency to reject the request.

The denial of basic worker rights highlighted in this report runs contrary to what it means to live and work in this country. The GAO has confirmed our long-suspected exploitation of vulnerable poultry workers, and now the federal government must go beyond just promising to study the problem more. The USDA must ensure that the industry makes its processing plants safer, while fostering an environment that encourages employees to voice concerns about abuse.

Public comments on the report are open until Dec. 13 at this link.