The U.S. Department of Agriculture: Don't Deregulate Chicken Processing Plants at the Risk of Worker and Consumer Safety
  • Petitioned The U.S. Department of Agriculture

This petition was delivered to:

Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture
National Chicken Council
Tom Super
U.S. Senate
New York
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
New York
Sen. Charles Schumer

The U.S. Department of Agriculture: Don't Deregulate Chicken Processing Plants at the Risk of Worker and Consumer Safety

    1. Laura Merriman
    2. Petition by

      Laura Merriman

      New York, NY

Meat processing is one of the most dangerous jobs in our country.

The main source of danger, according to Human Rights Watch and the Southern Poverty Law Center, is the dangerous speed at which conveyor belts operate. Workers currently have to hook at least approximately one chicken per second, which has resulted in lost limbs, other injuries, and even death. The Food Empowerment Project explains, “When you combine sharp tools and automated machinery in a high-paced, crowded environment, injuries are inevitable.” At the current speed at which conveyor belts operate, meat and poultry packing plant workers already suffer from extremely high rates of musculoskeletal injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendinitis, some to the point of some employees no longer being able straighten their fingers or grab a spoon or glass of water due to too many quick, repetitive motions. A Human Rights Watch researcher studying poultry processing plants in 2004 said that he had not encountered a single poultry plant worker that did not suffer from an affliction. The faster the speed the workers operate at, the higher the risk.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing removing most Food Safety Inspection Service agents from the production lines all together and to leave safety procedures up to the corporations’ discretion, allowing plants to move from operating the conveyor belts at a maximum of 70 to 140 birds per minute to a maximum of 175.  The proposal, entitled "The Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection", would eliminate 800 inspector jobs. When the USDA extended its public comments on this issue, it received hundreds of thousands of letters in opposition.

The National Chicken Council alleges that changes to line-speed regulations will not necessarily affect workers.  The Council’s president Tom Super contended, "Just because the pilot project allowed plants to operate at higher line-speeds as in the proposed rule, it does not mean all plants will continuously operate at this higher line speed."  This seems doubtful in an industry whose profits relies on maximizing profits in the least amount of time and that has a long history of overlooking worker injuries and labor violations.

Workers’ safety, limbs, and lives are not worth the estimated $95 million dollars that the USDA will save if this plan is implemented.  Nor can economically stricken places like Nebraska and Arkansas and the other rural states where meat is processed afford 800 inspection jobs.

We cannot accept dangerous working conditions in the United States.  The safety of U.S. workers should always come above profit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Reached 500 signatures
    2. Now Food Corporations Are Making It Harder to Document Animal Cruelty Too

      Laura Merriman
      Petition Organizer

      If we think that we can trust big corporate food producers, look at how Tyson treats its animals. Rolling Stone Magazine recently profiled horrific animal abuses at U.S. meat processing farms, including the abuse of baby pigs. Now these corporations are backing bills attempting to ban undercover journalists from documenting the animal cruelty taking place in their factories. Of course mega food corporations like Tyson, Smithfield, and Purdue do not want journalist documenting animal abuse or government inspectors witnessing unsanitary and unsafe working conditions. Tyson is now outsourcing its chicken to be processed in China and then sold to U.S. consumers.

      There is also a new petition trying to keep chicken processed in China out of U.S. supermarkets and schools: goo.gl/pqSchk.

      An epidemic of pain

      The pain would come, she knew. As sure as the turkeys coming down the line, about 30 each minute, ready to be gutted and clipped and de-boned and sliced. Karina Zorita knew this, almost four years ago, as she considered a job at House of Raeford Farms, the poultry plant along the highway near her home in rural Eastern North Carolina.

    3. Horrific Working Conditions Continue at Chicken Packing Plants

      Laura Merriman
      Petition Organizer

      We know that big food corporations like Tyson, Smithfield, and Purdue do not protect the interests of their factory workers. Only 13.5% of food processing workers earn a living wage. A recent study found that 42% of poultry plant workers in South Carolina had carpal tunnel, a debilitating condition directly associated with the line speed of the conveyor belts. Carpal tunnel can be so debilitating that it leaves line workers unable to pick up a spoon.
      This is why we need the government to regulate labor conditions in one of our nation's most dangerous working environments instead of leaving worker and consumer safety up to corporations, who have a vested interest in keeping operations as inexpensive (i.e. oftentimes riskier and less sanitary) as possible.

      An epidemic of pain

      The pain would come, she knew. As sure as the turkeys coming down the line, about 30 each minute, ready to be gutted and clipped and de-boned and sliced. Karina Zorita knew this, almost four years ago, as she considered a job at House of Raeford Farms, the poultry plant along the highway near her home in rural Eastern North Carolina.

    4. 1.25 billion chicken wings eaten for Super Bowl were produced unethically

      Laura Merriman
      Petition Organizer

      It has been over a year since many of you signed my petition opposing a new USDA plan to let poultry firm employees replace government inspectors in their factories in addition to speeding up processing lines up to 25 percent. Unfortunately, the USDA still plans on going ahead with its plan. When the Center for Disease Control had to recall 30 government employees due to a massive salmonella outbreak during the government shutdown, we saw that the deregulation, and abolition, of government services does not work when it comes to food safety. Luckily this fall the Government Accountability Office sounded alarm that the USDA plans to go through with the inspection deregulation plan. I was thrilled that U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who has received this petition, has questioned the validity of the USDA's plan. Here is Senator Gillibrand's office number, if you want to encourage her to continue to press the USDA on this issue: (202) 224-4451. Thank you!

      The USDA plan for deregulating and privatizing meat and poultry inspection: A short history

      Minneapolis, December 5, 2013 - In early November, the European Commission (EC) posted on its website a report evaluating Australian meat inspection. The upshot of the report will be to ban imports of Australian beef, pork and lamb because Australia allows companies producing meat products to also inspect them for safety.

    5. The support against this is so exciting, let's keep it going!

      Laura Merriman
      Petition Organizer

      Dear Supporters:

      Thank you for signing my petition regarding hazardous regulations the USDA is considering passing, which would give inspectors at poultry processing plants just 1/3 of a second to inspect each chicken, resulting in overlooked tumors, feces, pus, and sores in chicken packaged for U.S. consumers, in addition to rendering the work environment far more dangerous for plant workers.

      Please also sign retired poultry inspector Phyllis McKelvey’s petition at: https://www.change.org/petitions/tell-usda-to-keep-chicken-with-scabs-pus-and-feces-off-my-plate.

      We cannot let the USDA pass this regulation without a fight! The petition has been rapidly expanding over the past week, let’s keep it going by continuing to tweet the link (@USDA@USDAfoodsafety, hash tags: #poultry rule#clean chicken#askUSDA), emailing it to friends, and posting it on our Facebook pages.

      Sincerely,

      Laura Merriman

    6. Reached 250 signatures
    7. Excerpt from The Nation

      Laura Merriman
      Petition Organizer

      Describing what line speed does to poultry plant workers" "One was unable to hold a glass of water; another had three surgeries on her wrists; a third had discovered, after a visit to the doctor, that her thumb joint had almost disappeared after twelve years of line work. She told me her doctor had taken a vein from her leg and wrapped it around her thumb in an attempt to replace the missing cartilage. “Everyone on the line had hand problems,” she said." (The Nation, April 25, 2012).

      Tomorrow's the deadline, thank you so much for your support!

    8. Reached 100 signatures
    9. 29 more signatures to go until tonight!

      Laura Merriman
      Petition Organizer

      Dear friends,

      Please help me reach my goal of 100 signatures by tonight by reposting this link to your Facebook pages and emailing your friends with this petition's link so that I can reach my goal.

      Thank you!

      Laura

    10. USDA is deciding MAY 29TH

      Laura Merriman
      Petition Organizer

      Hi,

      So far I have 50 signatures and I am aiming to get 100 within the next 48 hours. I heard back from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which said that the USDA will decide on May 29th. Therefore, I am hoping to get as many signatures this week. If each of you get 5 friends to sign my petition, this would have a huge impact. So please pass on this petition's link to your friends!:

      www.change.org/petitions/the-u-s-department-of-agriculture-not-allowing-chicken-packing-plants-to-operate-conveyor-belts-twice-as-fast.

      I also encourage you to sign the White House petition, pasted below, which has more signatures than mine, and to pass on that link too:

      wwws.whitehouse.gov/user/validate/14211331/1337375195/3d9c004e18be775d4cca173f49cf2ef9.

      The Nation, blogs, workers' rights associations, and unions have been writing about this issue. I have pasted the link to The Nation's article below. Let's try to draw as much noise as possible about this issue and pass on this information!

    11. Reached 50 signatures
    12. Please help me spread the word--it will only take a minute

      Laura Merriman
      Petition Organizer

      Hi guys,

      Thank you so much for signing my petition! I am really hoping to get as many signatures as soon as possible before the USDA's public comments period ends on this issue. I would really appreciate it if you could send an email with a link for this petition to your friends and/or post it on your Facebook profile in order to get the word out as much as possible. And here's another petition about animal rights and Tyson that you might be interested in signing too below.

      Thanks so much,

      Laura

    13. Reached 25 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • gwen clements CENTRAL CITY, KY
      • 4 months ago

      because I worked in one of those plants and know what this can cause to workers and the public

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • H E SAINT LOUIS, MO
      • 4 months ago

      Affects Missouri workers and families, and helps ensure that we eat ethical food.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Thomas Smith SUR, OMAN
      • 4 months ago

      Having lived abroad and seen conditions many workers must bear, I strongly support the United States as the greatest country in the world for standing up for the rights of working conditions and safety for its employees.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Rebecca Wright-Hyde ALBERTVILLE, AL
      • 11 months ago

      I have many friends and students working in these plants.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Clifton Gray PRATTVILLE, AL
      • 11 months ago

      If they speed up the inspection speed then the chance of injury will quadruple and the inspection process will suffer bad enough to allow a deadly contamination to be missed. I wonder how the USDA would like to eat something that could kill them?

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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