Beyond the Dinner Table -- U.S. Poultry Plant Workers at Risk
by Katie Tracy | November 20, 2017
On Thanksgiving Day, families across the country will sit down for huge feasts, filling their bellies with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and lots of gravy. My mouth is watering just writing about it. In many households, it's tradition for each person at the table to say what they're thankful for and express their appreciation for the meal in front of them. But when it comes to that delicious meal, we often overlook the workers inside the poultry slaughter facilities and processing plants who do the incredibly labor-intensive and dangerous work required to bring our turkeys from farm to table. This year's the perfect time to get woke.
At this very moment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering a petition that would eliminate a standard that sets the maximum speed of poultry plants' "evisceration lines" – that's the line of hooks or hangers that carries live birds to be killed, scalded, defeathered, and have their feet and organs removed – at 140 birds per minute (bpm). That's already 2.33 birds every second. Trying to keep up with that speed, workers throughout the plant commonly suffer musculoskeletal injuries like carpal tunnel and shoulder injuries performing tasks that require forceful and repetitive twisting, cutting, and chopping, often from awkward postures.
USDA has previously attempted to speed up poultry processing lines as part of an Obama-era rulemaking to "modernize" the inspection process by removing federal inspectors from the
Questions for Scott Mugno, Trump's Pick to Lead OSHA
by Katie Tracy | November 02, 2017
Scott Mugno, Vice President for Safety, Sustainability, and Vehicle Maintenance at Fed Ex Ground in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is President Trump's pick to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Although whispers of Mugno's possible nomination had spread across Washington, D.C., over the past several months, not much has been said about his credentials for the job. One major concern is Mugno's connection to the notoriously anti-regulatory U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for which he is currently the chairman of the
CPR Launches New Database on State Prosecutions of Crimes against Workers
Too often, workplace injuries and deaths result from company policies and practices that encourage and reward unacceptably risky behavior under the false pretense that cutting corners is standard practice and no one will get hurt. As a result, an average of 13 Americans are killed on the job every day, and many more are seriously injured. In many cases, these tragedies and the grave pain they impose on the victims' families, friends, and communities are preventable with basic safety measures.
No Job and No Paycheck After Harvey and Irma
by Katie Tracy | September 15, 2017
In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, thousands of Texans and Floridians are out of work, some indefinitely. Without knowing when their employers might reopen for business (if at all) , many are uncertain how they're going to afford their next meal or purchase basic necessities, much less repair their damaged homes and property. At the same time, monthly bills are coming due. Vice News recently shared one Houston family’s gripping story of how Harvey has devastated them financially.
Is OSHA Out of the Worker Protection Business?
When President Trump released his spring Unified Agenda last week, he made it abundantly clear that he has no interest in protecting workers from occupational injuries and diseases. The White House released the agenda amid what it called “Made in America” week, but instead of recognizing workers and advocating for safe and healthy jobs and fair wages, Trump brought manufacturers to the nation’s capital to show off their products. When it comes to working families, Trump is ignoring what should
OSHA to Expand Voluntary Protection Programs without Assessing Benefits to Workers
On Monday, July 17, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) convened a public meeting to hear input from stakeholders about how the agency might grow and strengthen its Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP). Given the change in administration, the announcement was no surprise. Growing the VPP had also been a priority of the George W. Bush administration, during which time OSHA made plans to add thousands of new participants despite having no evidence the program improved worker health and safety.
Trump Budget Would Rob Public Programs to Give Money to Private Corporations
President Trump’s FY 2018 budget request may be DOA in Congress, but it nonetheless offers critical insight into how he expects to pay for his border wall, increase defense spending, offer up a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, and carry out his other pet projects, all while cutting corporate taxes. The bottom line is that he intends to eliminate some public programs and rob many others, and give that money to private corporations. The Trump budget proposal to slash funding for the
Workers' Memorial Day: Honoring Fallen Workers, Fighting for Safer Jobs
Every worker has a right to a safe job. Yet on an average day of the week, 13 U.S. workers die on the job due to unsafe working conditions. An additional 137 lives are lost daily due to occupational diseases – mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, among others. On Friday – Workers' Memorial Day – we will stand with the families, friends, and colleagues of fallen workers to remember each of them as individuals whose lives represent much more than a
Andrew Puzder Should Not Be the Next Labor Secretary
The Senate Labor Committee will hold a confirmation hearing Feb. 7 on President Donald Trump's nomination of Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor. If confirmed by a vote of the full Senate, Puzder will oversee all of the agencies and departments within the Department of Labor, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Wage and Hour Division (WHD), and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). This is troubling, to say the least, because a look at Puzder's
Representing Workers Injured on the Job – A New York Perspective
When it comes to worker health and safety, preventing injuries and illnesses is the number one goal. It was for this very purpose that Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) and tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with setting and enforcing strong workplace standards. But when preventative measures fail and workers are harmed, agency enforcement actions against the employer (while necessary) don't provide legal redress to workers or their families for the damages they've
Federal Contracting Gets Safer Thanks to New, Common-Sense Regulations
by Katie Tracy | September 21, 2016
Federal contractors that violate labor laws not only cheat workers by disregarding their rights to fair pay and safe workplaces, but they also tend to run into unexpected costs and delays during performance of the contracts they're awarded. With this in mind, in 2014, President Obama issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13673, which seeks to improve cost savings and efficiency in government contracting by requiring prospective contractors to disclose labor law violations and obligating contracting agencies to review those violations before
It's Well Past Time for OSHA to Act on Heat Stress
Last month was the hottest July on record for several cities across the southern United States, thanks to a heat wave that brought extreme temperatures to most of the country. But even when temperatures aren't record-breaking, extreme heat can be dangerous and potentially fatal if proper precautions aren't taken. Between 2003 and 2012, more than 30 workers died annually from heat-related illnesses and injuries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2014, 18 workers died and another
CPR Lauds OSHA's Continued Vigilance over Rampant Dangers in the Poultry Slaughter Industry
Earlier this week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Pilgrim's Pride, one of the world's largest poultry processors, with more than a dozen serious workplace health and safety violations. CPR Executive Director Matthew Shudtz issued the following statement today: Credit OSHA for pushing the envelope. The poultry slaughter industry loves to tout its declining injury rates, but outside experts have many reasons to believe the industry's cooking its books. This isn't the first time OSHA's investigators have uncovered
New Report: When OSHA Gives Discounts on Danger, Workers Are Put at Risk
NEWS RELEASE: New Report: When OSHA Gives Discounts on Danger, Workers Are Put at Risk As Agency Prepares to Increase Maximum Penalty Levels for Workplace Health and Safety Violations, It Should Reexamine Settlement Policy Workplace health and safety standards exist for a reason. When companies ignore them, they put their workers in significant danger. Every year, thousands of workers die on the job in the United States, and many more are seriously injured. Unfortunately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's)
Op-Ed: Prosecuting Safety Violations that Lead to Worker Deaths
CPR’s Rena Steinzor and Katherine Tracy had an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee over the weekend highlighting the reluctance of police and prosecutors to treat worker deaths as if they were anything but mere accidents. In fact, they’re often the result of illegal cost-cutting and safety shortcuts by employers, behavior that sometimes warrants criminal charges. They write: When a worker dies because a trench collapses, and it turns out that managers sacrificed safety to get the job done faster, that’s a crime. When managers operate factories
GAO Confirms Dangerous Working Conditions across Poultry Industry
This morning, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding that hazardous working conditions across the meat and poultry industry put workers at risk of on-the-job injuries and illnesses. While injury and illness rates reportedly declined in the decade from 2004 to 2013, GAO emphasizes that the decrease might not be because of improved working conditions in the industry. Rather, the drop is likely due to data-gathering challenges at the Department of Labor and underreporting across the industry.
The Silica Standard: A Case Study of Inequality in Worker Health and Safety Standards
Back in March, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized its long-awaited silica standard, requiring employers to reduce workers' exposure to the toxic, cancer-causing dust so common to construction and fracking sites, among other workplaces. OSHA estimates that the new standard will prevent more than 600 deaths and 900 new cases of silicosis annually. That is certainly commendable, but the kudos would be more heartfelt if the new standard had been adopted decades earlier and if it fully addressed
New Oxfam Report: Poultry Industry Denies Worker Requests for Bathroom Breaks
Can you imagine working for a boss who refuses you the dignity of taking a bathroom break? According to a revealing new report published today by Oxfam America, denial of bathroom breaks is a very real practice at poultry plants across the country, and line workers at these plants often "wait inordinately long times (an hour or more), then race to accomplish the task within a certain timeframe (e.g., ten minutes) or risk discipline." If you've never worked on an