There’s a Chance You’re Not Going to Want to Eat Chicken for Dinner This Week


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Source: Oxfam America

Source: Oxfam America

An eye-opening report from Oxfam America this week highlights a disturbing trend in poultry processing plants: Workers are often denied adequate bathroom breaks to the point where they wear diapers to work and simply go to the bathroom as they are preparing the chicken that’s going to be on your dinner plate.

No Relief” is a three year study by Oxfam and partner organizations that details the “dangers” and “blows to their dignity” that poultry workers face on a daily basis.


From the report:

“While the poultry industry today enjoys record profits and pumps out billions of chickens, the reality of life inside the processing plant remains grim and dangerous. Workers earn low wages, suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, toil in difficult conditions, and have little voice in the workplace.

“Despite all that, though, workers say the thing that offends their dignity most is simple: lack of adequate bathroom breaks, and the suffering that entails, especially for women.”

Oxfam says it is routine for workers to be denied bathroom breaks, and often are mocked for even asking, or worse, receive threats of punishment or firing.

“[Workers] urinate and defecate while standing on the line,” the report continues. “They wear diapers to work; they restrict intake of liquids and fluids to dangerous degrees; they endure pain and discomfort while they worry about their health and job security. And it’s not just their dignity that suffers: they are in danger of serious health problems.”

According to the report, the practice of denying adequate restroom breaks is widespread among the nation’s four largest poultry companies: Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms. These companies control almost 60 percent of the market and employ over 100,000 workers.

“In one survey of 266 workers in Alabama conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, nearly 80 percent said they are not allowed to take bathroom breaks when needed. A recent survey in Minnesota revealed that 86 percent of workers interviewed said they get fewer than two bathroom breaks in a week,” Oxfam reported.

Factories where conditions are best usually have a strong union in place to help workers ensure their rights are respected.

“In the course of hundreds of interviews, only a handful of workers reported that their bathroom needs are respected. These exceptions are primarily in plants that have unions, which offer important protections, inform workers of their rights, and ensure they have a voice on the job. Unionized workers report that they feel comfortable leaving or stopping the line when their requests are denied for too long. Roughly a third of the poultry workforce is unionized, leaving most workers without these crucial protections.”

Along with the report, Oxfam America has launched several media campaigns to highlight the inhumane treatment of poultry industry workers, with hashtags like #GiveThemABreak on Twitter, and #LivesOnTheLine on Facebook, along with an in-depth look at the plight many workers and former workers face.

Full details of the report can be read here.


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