Congressmen, Workers, and Advocates ask USDA to pluck the Poultry Rule

Hilary O. Shelton of the NAACP appears with members of the Congressional Black Caucus at a news conference Thursday in Washington, D.C.  (Photo credit: Congressional Black Caucus)

Hilary O. Shelton of the NAACP appears with members of the Congressional Black Caucus at a news conference Thursday in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Congressional Black Caucus)

Yesterday, U.S. Representatives Bennie Thompson (Mississippi), Marcia Fudge (Ohio), and Shelia Jackson-Lee (Texas), along Hilary O. Shelton, the NAACP’s senior vice president for policy and advocacy, joined poultry workers in Washington, D.C., to strongly urge the Obama Administration to stop the USDA’s proposed poultry rule. This proposal would permit poultry processing plants to increase the speed of the processing line, which would lead to more crippling injuries and would jeopardize the safety of our food.

In a House briefing and meetings with the Administration and on the Hill, these congressional and civil rights leaders spoke forcefully about their deep concerns with the working conditions of poultry workers across the country and how this proposal would increase the risk of workers suffering from crippling repetitive motion injuries – who are already injured at high rates – and decrease the quality of the chicken on our dinner tables.

Poultry workers also shared their stories with the press and congressional staff at the D.C. briefing, recounting the painful and permanent injuries they sustained while working on the processing line.

All of the workers who shared their powerful stories focused on the speed of the line as the primary cause of their and their co-workers’ injuries. One worker, Salvadora Roman, who worked for 17 years at a plant in Alabama, described the extreme pain and how she was fired for missing work because of a doctor’s appointment. Other workers said:

  • “Slavery still exists today.  It’s been mechanized and it happens during a 40-hour week.”

  • “I’m doomed.  My injuries are permanent.  But think about the younger people and how we could prevent harm coming to them.”

Meanwhile, Jose Gaytan, a former meatpacking plant worker from Grand Island, spoke to the Omaha World-Herald about his own experiences on the packing line where he suffered chronic injuries with pain so strong it kept him up at night.

The new Poultry Rule puts Nebraska workers in danger. Based on a pilot program in poultry and pork plants, it could be expanded in the future to include pork.  Replacing federal food inspectors with plant employees also creates a clear conflict of interest that will jeopardize the food on our plate.

Take Action

You can take action today to oppose this dangerous action.  First, take just a second to sign this online petition urging President Obama and the USDA to “dump the chicken rule.”  Then, call the White House at (202) 456-1111 and tell the Administration the Poultry Rule is a senseless danger to workers’ and food safety.

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