Big Victory For Poultry Workers As USDA Rejects Increased Line Speed Petition

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has rejected a National Chicken Council petition to increase line speeds in poultry processing plants. This is a significant victory for thousands of poultry workers across the country and a direct result of the worker-led coalition of IWJ affiliates and allies that have been organizing tirelessly for years on the issue.

Just last month IWJ affiliates, staff, and coalition leaders met with USDA officials to urge them to reject National Chicken Council’s proposed elimination of the line speed regulation and presenting the officials with hundreds of petitions signed by poultry workers. The USDA also received 100,000 public comments in opposition to the industry proposal.

Our coalition met with USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Carmen Rottenberg in Washington, DC

Under current rules regulating line speeds, working men and women resort to wearing diapers and forgo water breaks in sweltering processing plants just to keep up with current quotas. They work through serious injuries that frequently cause lifelong disability and chronic pain.

"We applaud the USDA decision to stop the petition of increasing the line speed in poultry processing plants," said Magaly Licolli, Executive Director of the Northwest Arkansas Workers' Justice Center, an IWJ affiliate. "This is a huge victory for thousands of poultry workers who often risk their health and safety by processing chicken at high speeds. However, we will keep fighting to assure poultry companies don’t get away with continue petitioning line speed waivers for individual processing plants.

So while we celebrate today’s decision by USDA, we know that there is much work ahead for IWJ, our affiliates, and our allies — together we will continue our organizing to challenge the already-breakneck speed and inhumane conditions that working people endure in so many poultry processing plants from coast to coast.