October 11, 2017

UFCW to USDA: Keep Line Speed Limits at Poultry Plants

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, sent a letter to the Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Carmen Rottenberg, explaining why a recent petition by the National Chicken Council to eliminate line speeds at poultry plants poses a dangerous risk to American families. 

President Perrone’s letter can be read below.

Dear Madam Acting Deputy Undersecretary Rottenberg:

With the health and safety of over 250,000 thousand hard-working poultry workers in mind, 70,000 of whom are members of our union family, we write to urge you to reject a petition submitted by the National Chicken Council (NCC) to run food processing lines with no speed limits.

This petition, submitted to you in early September, would allow select poultry plants to run their lines with no speed limits, endangering both workers and consumers. Even more troubling is that this petition essentially requests that USDA create this new “no speed limit” rule behind closed doors with no opportunity for notice and comment by the public as the regulatory process requires.

As you must know, poultry workers hold some of the most dangerous and difficult jobs in America. The implications of this rule change are striking, for example:

  • Industry statistics show poultry workers are at twice the risk of being injured on the job compared to other workers and suffer illnesses at a rate that is seven times as high.
  • A 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office showed that forcing lines to move faster will expose poultry workers to higher rates of injuries and illnesses.
  • Increased line speeds will also make it harder for both federal inspectors and quality control workers to properly check birds for contamination that could make consumers sick.

Given the facts noted above, the petition from the NCC clearly poses a dangerous risk to American families.

When the USDA chose not to raise line speed limits for poultry plants in 2014, there was large public interest in the open and transparent process (which we participated in) that ensured all perspectives on this proposed modification were heard – including those of the NCC. A wide array of people and interests, from workers on poultry lines to experts across the country, agreed then as they do now that faster line speeds will make this industry dramatically less safe, both for workers and consumers.

For the sake of keeping hard-working families safe – whether they’re preparing, buying, or eating chicken – the USDA must reject this petition.

Sincerely,

Anthony “Marc” Perrone

International President

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.  

Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org