Odds are, if there's breaking news concerning the meat industry, it's going to be horrific. Like, for example, this breaking Oxfam America report about poultry factory workers wearing diapers so bathroom breaks don't get in the way of making chicken as cheap as possible for American carnivores. The report, titled "No Relief," reveals degrading conditions for workers at company plants that supply chicken to over 60% of the U.S. market. Tyson, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms were four poultry producers named in the report. Oxfam's using Twitter to spread awareness about this issue via #GiveThemABreak.
Oxfam America summarizes the indefensible practice:
Chicken is the most popular meat in America, and the poultry industry is booming. But workers on the processing line do not share in the bounty. Poultry workers 1) earn low wages of diminishing value, 2) suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, and 3) often experience a climate of fear in the workplace.
Despite this, though, workers themselves say that the thing that offends their dignity most is simple: lack of adequate bathroom breaks, and the suffering that entails, especially for women.
Quartz's Debbie Berkowitz, who also contributed an inside look at these factory conditions, highlights just a few of the grim experiences these workers endure so consumers can save a few bucks on what KFC sells as food.
In my work at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, I witnessed the dangers: poultry workers stand shoulder to shoulder on both sides of long conveyor belts, most using scissors or knives, in cold, damp, loud conditions, making the same forceful movements thousands upon thousands of times a day, as they skin, pull, cut, debone and pack the chickens. The typical plant processes 180,000 birds a day. A typical worker handles 40 birds a minute...
...Too many workers tell stories about urinating on themselves or witnessing coworkers do the same. Not only is it embarrassing and degrading, it’s also extremely uncomfortable to feel the warm urine in the frigid environment and to wear wet clothing in 40 degree temperatures.
Hanson, one of the workers featured in the report, works at a Tyson plant in Arkansas and had the disheartening experience of seeing his own mother urinate on the line; she now wears diapers to work to avoid it happening again...
...a recent survey of workers in Minnesota found that 86% of respondents said they get only two bathroom breaks in a week.
Halfway decent dental coverage is a privilege. Not bathroom breaks.
Meanwhile, Tyson twitters on with a fun hashtag campaign to promote their "miracle" product.