This afternoon, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to rejected the National Chicken Council’s petition for exemptions from rules stating that line speeds in poultry plants should not go beyond the already-fast rate of 140 birds per minute. EPI applauds the decision.
Workers in our nation’s poultry processing plants deserve the basic protections of workplace safety laws and regulations. Line speed regulations protect working people from employers who want to increase profits at the expense of workers’ health and safety. The poultry industry’s own data show that their workers are injured at twice the rate of the national average, and increasing line speeds would only make things worse.
Moreover, these statistics likely undercount the number of injuries. The USDA has recognized “systemic underreporting of work-related injuries and illnesses” and the Government Accountability Office documented workers’ widespread fear of retaliation by poultry plant owners if they report injuries, which makes it difficult to accurately evaluate the extent to which poultry workers suffer injuries. It is clear that the nation’s 250,000 poultry workers face great risk in their jobs, and that increasing line speeds would only increase their risk of serious and debilitating injuries.