“Warning horns should blast full force” about proposed Poultry Rule

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Meatpacking-128The Charlotte Observer has published two strong pieces in the past few days that address the risks of the USDA’s proposed poultry rule — a rule that would increase line speeds to a punishing 175 birds per minute and decrease the number of federal inspectors in favor of company-trained (or not trained) employees. These changes would considerably increase the risk of poultry workers suffering from crippling repetitive motion injuries and would jeopardize the safety of our food.

Last week, the Observer reported on the poultry rule outlined some of the serious problems the rule would have on food and workers safety. The article notes how a recent report from the Government Accountability Office undercuts the USDA’s claim that the proposed rule would “prevent 5,000 cases of foodborne illness” because the USDA had not employed proper data collection and evaluation needed to prove that food safety would be improved.” Furthermore, the piece highlights Basilio Castro’s story, a former poultry worker from North Carolina:

Basilio Castro, who worked at the Case Farms chicken plant in Morganton in 2004 and 2005, experienced throbbing in his hands, shoulder and back from making thousands of cuts in the plant all day.

“It wouldn’t let you sleep,” he said in a recent interview.

Now an organizer at the Western North Carolina Worker Center, Castro meets regularly with workers suffering all types of musculoskeletal problems.

“They tell me, ‘We have to endure because we don’t have another way to work in this country,’ ” he said.

Today, the paper also published a forceful editorial about the rule, saying that “[w]arning horns should blast full force” around the administration and that “worker advocates’ concerns that such a change would be a risk to both food and worker safety have considerable merit.” The editorial ends by asserting that government officials should “rethink” the entire rule.

If you would like to learn more about worker safety the meat and poultry industry, the Observer published a powerful, in-depth series called The Cruelest Cuts in 2008, which showed the devastating impact that working in a poultry plant has on its workers. Southern Poverty Law Center and Nebraska Appleseed have conducted community surveys of hundreds of workers, and together with 13 partners recently petitioned the USDA and OSHA to set safe work speeds.

To help stop the proposed poultry rule from increasing work speed and reducing federal food safety inspectors, call the White House at (202) 456-1111 and our two U.S. senators to ask them to stop the USDA’s new poultry rule: one-third of a second per chicken isn’t enough to keep food and workers safe. You can reach our senators by calling them at:

  • Sen. Mike Johanns (202) 224-4224 or (402) 476-1400

  • Sen. Deb Fischer (202) 224-6551 or (402) 441-4600

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