Human Rights Watch Issues Scathing Report on Meat and Poultry Industry

Occupational Hazards, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Human Rights Watch Issues Scathing Report on Meat and Poultry Industry


Employers in the U.S. meat and poultry industry subject their workers to unnecessary hazards, suppress workers' rights to unionize, block employees' attempts to obtain workers' compensation and exploit their immigrant workers, according to a report issued by a human rights advocacy group.

The 175-page report, titled "Blood, Sweat and Fear: Workers' Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants," says it bases its conclusions on research, interviews and visits to the operations of Omaha-based Nebraska Beef Ltd., Smithfield, Va.-based Smithfield Foods Inc. and Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods Inc. The report was issued by Human Rights Watch.

Among the report's findings:

* Many workers in the meatpacking and poultry industry suffer severe, life-threatening and sometimes life-ending injuries that are predictable and preventable. However, many of them cannot get the workers' compensation to which they are entitled.

* Government regulations and enforcement fail to protect meat and poultry workers' safety and health and their right to compensation when hurt.

* Many workers who try to unionize or bargain collectively are "spied on, harassed, pressured, threatened, suspended, fired, deported or otherwise victimized."

* Meat and poultry employers exploit immigrant workers' fears of deportation by subjecting them to abusive workplace conditions. …

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