Here’s how your efforts are helping improve conditions for poultry workers

By Oxfam
Photo: iStock

While turkeys take center stage during Thanksgiving, we’re pleased to report that the people who process those birds are also getting some attention these days— and that signs are pointing toward some significant, positive changes.

In October, Oxfam America launched a new campaign that aims to improve the lives of the roughly 250,000 poultry workers in the US. They earn low wages, suffer high rates of injury and illness, and often work in a climate of fear. For information about the challenges facing poultry workers, please explore our interactive site, Lives on the Line, sign the petition, or read our full report.

As we head into the latest poultry-intensive holiday season, Oxfam America is happy to report that your actions to improve conditions inside poultry plants are beginning to pay off. We’re seeing steps toward real change:

  • On October 23, Tyson Foods announced pay increases for a third of its workers—34,000 employees in more than 50 plants.
  • On October 26, Tyson Foods announced a pilot project to improve worker health and safety, with a focus on worker communication and data-gathering.
  • On October 26, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) announced a new Regional Emphasis Program to monitor the poultry industry in southern states. In their statement, they noted: “The Regional Emphasis Program is designed to reduce employee exposure to crippling injuries, such as musculoskeletal disorders, and to ensure the industry records all occupational injuries and illnesses accurately.”
  • On October 30, fifteen Members of Congress signed onto a letter to OSHA urging action on problems in the poultry industry.
  • The report and campaign have attracted the attention of some of the top food advocates in the country, including Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, and Danielle Nierenberg.
  • Several media outlets covered the story, including Fast Company, Vice, Buzzfeed, and The Chicago Tribune.
Working on the line takes a toll on body and mind. Poultry workers earn low wages, suffer high injury rates, and endure arduous conditions. Photo: John D. Simmons/The Charlotte Observer

These are important advances, with the potential to make a real difference for thousands of workers.

But we have a long way to go. Consumers have already pushed the poultry industry to improve the treatment of their chickens, reduce the use of antibiotics, and improve food safety. Now it’s time to focus on the workers who are responsible for bringing the chicken to our plates.

As you make preparations to carve into your holiday bird, we hope you’ll take a moment to consider those who do that work every day, thousands of times each shift in unnecessarily demanding conditions. They deserve respect, but also fair compensation and safe conditions.

Surely the bounty we celebrate this season should extend to the people who work so hard to bring food to our tables.


Sign the petition now to demand fair, safe working conditions for poultry workers.

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