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Chick-News.com Poultry Industry News, Comments and more by Simon M. Shane

Poultry Industry Establishes Task Force on Child Labor

05/14/2024

Following revelations of illegal employment of minors to clean packing and processing plants, USPOULTRY in association with the National Chicken Council and the National Turkey Federation has established a task force to share industry best practices relating to prevention of child labor. The group will include company representatives with expertise in HR, communications and employment law.

 

This action is paralleled by the Meat Institute whose members have come under criticism for employing, directly or indirectly, children as young as 14 on nightshifts to clean equipment and facilities in contravention of both state and federal laws.  The most recent case involves a chain of plants in California used minors in deboning and further processing operations.  The owners and company were collectively fined and will have to repay $4.8 million in back wages and damages to close to 500 workers in addition to penalties. 

 

Fayette, Inc., based in Tennessee, was subject to a $650,000 fine as a result of employing 24 children in plants owned by Seaboard Triumph Foods, LLC in Sioux City, IA. and Perdue Farms in Accomac, VA.  The case involving Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. that provided labor for meat plants in the Midwest through 2023 was the most publicized case of egregious and widespread employment of minors.

 

Underage workers are usually recruited from the local community to join cleaning teams.  In the course of investigations, the Department of Labor referred possible trafficking allegations to the Department of Justice for additional action.  A large number of unaccompanied minors have entered the U.S. across the southern border, and are exploited by recruiters who in turn provide services to established U.S. companies processing livestock and poultry. 

 

The Meat Institute has developed a Best Practices document to enable plant management to verify age and employment eligibility.  Both fines and negative publicity should deter packers and processors from simply handing off responsibility to labor contractors given the consequences of unfavorable media attention and inevitable lawsuits.

 

The action by USPOULTRY and two of the associations representing major segments of the poultry industry is commendable.   Children have no place in processing and packing plants where they are exposed to corrosive chemicals and hazardous equipment as evidenced by injuries and deaths reported during the past two years.


 
Copyright © 2024 Simon M. Shane