Oxfam America welcomes this updated report from the GAO on working conditions in the meat and poultry industry, which confirms what many organizations, workers, experts, and advocates have been saying for many years. Sadly, we are dismayed to find that little has improved since the previous report was released in 2005.
“Once again, the GAO confirms what experts, workers, and advocates have been saying for years,” said Oliver Gottfried, Senior Advocacy and Collaborations Advisor for Oxfam America. “Meat and poultry workers continue to face multiple hazards in the workplace that put them at great risk, and companies are not doing enough to care for their workers or paint an accurate picture of the real rates of incidents. Oxfam continues to call on the industry leaders – Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms – to lead the way in implementing changes that will improve conditions for workers in their plants.”
The findings are similar to those in Oxfam’s 2015 report, Lives on the Line. For example:
- meat and poultry workers continue to face multiple hazards in the workplace that put them at great risk of injuries and illnesses; these include repetitive motion tasks associated with musculoskeletal disorders, exposure to chemicals and pathogens, and traumatic injuries from machines and tools;
- plants do not provide adequate medical care, and sometimes penalize workers for seeking care;
- these “plant health units” may be too quick to send people back to the same positions and duties on the line, exacerbating medical conditions;
- plants are taking measures to encourage under-reporting of incidents, which enables the industry to paint a false picture of overall decline in rates of injury and illness.
The report also confirms that more must be done to adequately safeguard the health and safety of workers in meat and poultry processing. The poultry and meatpacking industries need to step up and do more to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of its employees.