On Sept. 3, the UFCW, along with Senator Cory Booker (N.J.) and Representative Marcia Fudge (Ohio), announced their opposition to a proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulation that increases line speeds in poultry plants across America. Current line speeds are about 140 birds per minute and the proposed regulation allows plants to operate at up to 175 birds per minute.
In 2017, the USDA considered a petition from the National Chicken Council to eliminate line speed limits. That effort was ultimately rejected after an outpouring of opposition from workers and consumers. Since then, the USDA has continued to approve record numbers of waivers to allow individual plants to operate at dangerously fast speeds despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UFCW has been a leading national voice for strengthening safeguards in these plants, which have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and our union and Public Citizen recently filed a lawsuit to stop this dangerous practice and prevent further line speed waivers in the poultry industry.
Senator Booker, along with Representative Fudge, introduced “The Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act” to ensure that USDA protects worker safety by ending this practice.
“Fast line speeds worsen already unsafe conditions on slaughter lines and make it nearly impossible for workers to socially distance,” said Representative Fudge. “In fact, nearly all of the poultry plants that the USDA allowed to operate faster line speeds this spring have been cited for worker safety violations or experienced COVID outbreaks. In the middle of a pandemic, the USDA should be prioritizing worker safety. Congress must act now and pass my Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act to block the USDA from increasing poultry line speeds and putting the health and safety of the meatpacking workforce at greater risk.”
“Despite a surge of COVID-19 outbreaks in meatpacking plants across the country, the USDA continued to grant line speed request waivers that threatened the health and safety of workers, their families, and consumers,” said Senator Booker. “The USDA has now proposed to permanently increase line speeds in poultry plants—an action that is both dangerous and irresponsible. Now is the time, more than ever, that we pass the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act and protect workers and communities from the harm of these reckless giveaways to corporate agribusiness.”
“The hard-working men and women of America’s poultry industry deserve safe workplaces,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “As our country’s poultry workers have been battling a pandemic, they should not have to also battle USDA seeking to make their workplaces less safe. Slower line speeds keep workers safer from injuries and ensure safe social distancing to stop the spread of coronavirus. The USDA must end its reckless efforts to increase line speeds, and instead put the safety of America’s workers and food supply first.”