Turn up the heat on Big Poultry this Super Bowl Sunday

By Mary Babic
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Poultry workers rallied outside the annual meeting of the National Chicken Council in Washington, DC last November. While the workers held signs directed at poultry executives, they also made their own signs to express appreciation to people who’d taken action to advocate for workers’ rights. Photo: Coco McCabe / Oxfam America

As Big Poultry kick off the biggest chicken wing day of the year, we have an opportunity to show them we’ll stand up for the people who put their lives on the line. 

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 more, explore our interactive site, Lives on the Line.

After the campaign launched, we saw several positive signs of change that indicated concern about the situation from the poultry industry and the federal government. Thousands of you signed the petition and spread the word about the campaign, and it’s making a difference.

But much remains to be done. In early February, we’ll turn up the heat by engaging in new strategies to push Big Poultry to step up. And we need your help.

Wing-onomics on Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest eating day of the year (after Thanksgiving); and wings are the most popular snack. When the big game rolls around on February 7, millions of us will be enjoying chicken wings. The National Chicken Council crows about Wing-onomics, and  notes that “1.3 billion chicken wings is enough for every man, woman and child in the United States to have four wings each.”

We have our own version of Wing-onomics—which focuses on the worker who cuts those wings in harsh, cold conditions:

  • In one survey, 86 percent of wing cutters report hand and wrist pain, swelling, numbness, inability to close hands.
  • Each worker clips a wing every two seconds or so – around 40 times a minute, or 2400 an hour, or nearly 20,000 a day.
  • Poultry workers suffer carpal tunnel syndrome at 7 times the national average.

Join us on Sunday to stand with wing cutters and other poultry workers by sharing the word on Twitter and Facebook. Let’s rally our friends and family to speak up about these deplorable numbers and take action.
 

Shareholder meetings for Tyson Foods and Sanderson Farms

Oxfam filed shareholder resolutions with both companies calling for greater transparency around workforce health and safety: monitoring and reporting.

We’ll be attending the annual meetings and speaking in favor of these resolutions. We’ll also be joining partner organizations in Arkansas and Mississippi (where the companies are based) for various events to keep the pressure on Tyson Foods and Sanderson Farms.

New reports and surveys from Arkansas and Maryland

Based on a survey of 500 poultry workers in Arkansas, a report from the Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center will be released this week. Some of the stunning statistics:

  • Six in ten surveyed have suffered from injuries or health problems while working in poultry. Most of these workers received no treatment or compensation for missed work; nearly 60% took no action after an injury.
  • Over 90% have no access to earned sick leave; 62% have gone to work while sick. 78% cannot afford the costs associated with health care.
  • The fast speed of the poultry processing line may compromise workers’ ability to take care of the food properly. Over half of those surveyed said that line speed and time pressure forced them to do things that might harm the health and safety of the consumer.

Another recent survey in the Delmarva region revealed that three quarters of workers say they’ve had injuries or pain while working; 62% are reluctant or scared to report injuries.

One worker at a poultry plant in Maryland noted, “In the last week, a lady cut her hand and three others slipped and fell.” He says that he has pain and numbness in his hands, and that sometimes his fingers turn black from handling the frozen chicken and cramp up in pain.


See what it takes to bring chicken to your plate—and then tell Big Poultry to treat its workers right. Sign the petition calling on the top four companies to provide a safe working environment, offer fair pay and benefits, and give their workers a voice.

Experience the interactive story

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