Former Tyson Foods Employee Speaks out About Line Speeds



From KNWA:

SPRINGDALE--Ark. -- (KNWA) - A former Tyson Foods employee is coming forward after the National Chicken Council announced plans to increase line speeds.

The council is petitioning the USDA for faster poultry processing lines. The NCC said it takes the safety of the food and employees very seriously. 

Former Tyson Employee, Rosa Rivas said, "My experience was the lines are going pretty fast, and people struggle to work as fast as they ask us to work. "

Rivas said she worked at Tyson Foods meat packing plant in Springdale for more than a decade. 

She said the speed of the processing lines hurt her hands, something she must now live with.  "Yes my fingers still hurt from that and sometimes my fingers still  cramp up because of how fast we were made to work on the lines," said Rivas. 

The National Chicken Council announced September 1st that they were going to petition the USDA for faster poultry lines. Rivas and others with the Northwest Arkansas Workers Justice Center are already concerned with the current speed of the lines and the new NCC plan. 

Fernando Garcia is a Workers Justice Center Organizer He said, "Right now workers are suffering a lot from repetitive motion injuries so the faster the line is going to go the more of these motions they're going to be repeating over and over. "

Rivas said, "They don't like us going to the restroom. Most of the time they allowed us one time in between breaks."

We spoke with the NCC who said it takes the safety of poultry workers and their food very seriously and that this is not an overnight decision. 

Tom Super is the NCC Senior VP of Communications. Super said,  "This is based on 20 years of data and science that we've been collecting as part of a pilot program. "

The NCC said  poultry plants will have the option of implementing the speed increase and extra safety measures would be put in place if a plant wants the faster speeds. 

"When these plants opt into this system, they have to subject themselves to greater food safety scrutiny. From both a company standpoint, and from a Federal government USDA standpoint," Super said. 

The council said this would only affect a certain part of the poultry line. Super said, "It only has to do with that middle evisceration part and almost all of the cleaning and all of the cleaning, all of the organ removal, that is all automated."

Rivas and others hope that by speaking up about the current conditions, it will prevent the situation from getting worse. 

Rivas said, "I would like them to know that inside of there, the benefits do not go to the workers, everything is to benefit them."

We reached out to Tyson Foods multiple times about this matter. Tyson said at this time it is not taking a position on the proposal to allow increased production line speeds at poultry plants.

A statement from the corporation said, 

    "We’ve not taken a position on the proposal to allow increased production line speeds at poultry plants, but will say that we’re committed to operating at production rates that protect the safety of our team members, as well as the food we produce. We use industrial engineers to evaluate line speeds and, in general, don’t implement increases without improvements in technology, additional staff or both.
 
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