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March 27, 2013
Report: Poultry workers face injury, illness

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has published a report describing injuries and illnesses among poultry workers forced to keep up with the “punishing speed of processing lines.”

Unsafe at These Speeds: Alabama’s Poultry Industry and its Disposable Workers was released by SPLC and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. The conclusions are based on interviews with more than 300 current and former poultry workers in Alabama, the nation’s third-largest poultry producer.

The report comes as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering enacting new rules in April that will mean faster line speeds and, the SPLC says, more injuries.

Unlike OSHA, the USDA regulates line speeds. However, according to the SPLC, “the agency’s regulations are designed to guard against food contamination—not to protect workers.” Under the new laws, line speeds could increase from 140 to 175 birds per minute.

Three out of four Alabama poultry workers interviewed described suffering a significant work-related injury or illness, such as debilitating pain in the hands, gnarled fingers, cuts, chemical burns, or respiratory problems. Workers said they were discouraged from reporting injuries and forced to endure constant pain.

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