Why is Oxfam—an international humanitarian and development organization—talking about poultry workers in the US?

On May 11, Oxfam and the Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center rallied workers outside the Tyson headquarters in Springdale, AR to protest conditions inside poultry processing plants. In most plants, workers are largely minorities, immigrants, and refugees, doing work that is dangerous and arduous. Photo: Coco McCabe / Oxfam America

Oxfam’s mission is to support the efforts of people around the world who are working to lift themselves out of poverty. This includes people in our own country who are struggling to stay afloat in an increasingly unequal economy. 

As an organization based in the US, we have the ability and opportunity to amplify the voices of people in the US and reach out to major corporate players. For some years, Oxfam has had a US program that addresses the challenges that food workers—primarily farmworkers—face. We support efforts to improve working and living conditions, raise wages, win the right to organize, and raise the voices of the men and women who handle our food.

We believe that it’s important to examine the supply chain in our food system, and to consider the people who grow, harvest, and process America’s food. Poultry workers play a central role in producing the US’s most popular meat.

Our research on the poultry industry found that 250,000 workers struggle to support their families in the face of low wages and scant benefits, unsafe working conditions, with little or no voice on the job. Many of these workers are minorities, immigrants, refugees, and even prisoners. Oxfam has a deep history of supporting marginalized communities so that they can access their rights and a living wage.

In the process of interviewing workers, we not only identified the need for action, we also saw clearly how our particular efforts could make a difference. In recent years—engaging companies from Starbucks to Coca-Cola—Oxfam has gained credibility in our work assessing corporate impact on vulnerable communities and then mobilizing with you to encourage companies to have a positive social impact.

We believe that if we expose what poultry industry watchdogs have known for years that this issue can finally attract the broad attention it deserves, and a movement of people in the US will hold companies accountable.

The way we see it, poverty is solvable—a problem rooted in injustice. Eliminate injustice and you can eliminate poverty. Stand with us to hold the powerful accountable and help people around the world overcome poverty and injustice.

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