The Plight of Poultry Workers

I’m revolted by certain working conditions, by what people have to do to earn a living and be able to survive. I’ve written about farm laborers and Amazon employees, now I find that poultry workers work in what an Oxfam recent report calls grim conditions. The machines are faster than they were years ago, they have to process 34 chickens per minute, and in an 8-hour shift, they only have a half hour for lunch. They are not entitled to bathroom breaks and some refrain from having liquids or else wear diapers. Of course injuries are frequent. Then there’s the issue of pay, they usually earn below the poverty level of about $23,000 a year for a family of 4. There is talk by Tyson, of the big 4 poultry producers, of raising hourly wage to $10 and to $12 for those there over a year, but the turnover is 100%. The job attracts the economically desperate, migrants, refugees, and even people from local jails (a statement I wasn’t able to obtain additional information about). The National Chicken Council of course denies many of these claims, saying that the industry has decreased its injury and illness rate over the last 20 years. The workers’ conditions are all the more troubling when compared with growing profits and revenues for the producers and specifically for Tyson foods. The president and CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride, another of the 4 main producers (the other two being Perdue and Sanderson Farms) made $9.3 million in 2014, or made in 5 hours what the workers made working a whole year. People eat more chicken than any other meat, 89lbs a year, and in the same way that consumers made a difference with cage free and hormone free birds, it is now our responsibility to make a difference about poultry workers’ conditions. If not, maybe stopping eating chicken would also send a strong message.