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June 4, 2019

UFCW Praises Congressional Action to Protect America’s Food Safety and Stop Dangerous Pork Plant Change

Largest Private-Sector Union Representing Thousands of Pork Workers Applauds Passage of Amendment to Defund Implementation of USDA Line Speed Increase

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) applauds the House Appropriations Committee for taking steps to protect the safety of food and workers at swine slaughter plants. The legislation passed by the Committee included an amendment championed by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and David Price (NC-04) which aims to halt the USDA proposal that increases pork plant line speeds and puts American workers and consumers at risk. The amendment would prevent the USDA from spending funds to implement the rule. UFCW President Marc Perrone released the following statement praising today’s vote:

“America’s food safety and the safety of the workers who produce our food must never take a backseat to corporate profits. Today’s vote to defund this dangerous line speed rule makes clear that Congress is ready to honor that commitment and the USDA must do the same.

“Increasing line speeds needlessly threatens the quality and health of America’s food supply and cruelly endangers the lives of workers who help produce that food. The proposed USDA rule would dramatically weaken protections that Americans depend on to be able to select safe, healthy food to feed their families every day.

“Our members in pork plants nationwide understand from firsthand experience that the USDA’s proposed rule would hurt workers, consumers, and our economy. We urge the USDA to stop this rule and do its job to protect American workers and consumers.”

BACKGROUND

The Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection rule proposed by the USDA would hurt workers and consumers.

Hazards of Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection Rule:

  • The Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection rule removes all limitations on line speeds in hog slaughter plants which will endanger the health and safety of tens of thousands of workers in the hog slaughter industry.
  • Even at current line speeds, swine slaughter and processing workers face many job risks that can lead to severe injury, illness and death.
  • There is no evidence that the increased line speeds can be done in a manner that ensures food and worker safety.
  • In 1997, the USDA created a pilot program called the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) which allowed five hog slaughter plants to test a new food safety program.  The hog slaughter pilot program revealed serious safety issues including a Clemens food plant in Pennsylvania which reported injuries severe enough that two workers were hospitalized, and one suffered an amputation.
  • The Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection rule provides no requirement or funding to train plant employees on inspection techniques that were previously performed by USDA inspectors and are now their responsibility.
  • Increased line speeds will disproportionally hurt women and people of color.

Key Facts About Swine Workers: 

  • Meatpacking workers in hog slaughter plants work in cold, wet, noisy, and slippery conditions making tens of thousands of forceful repetitive motions on each shift.
  • Research shows that the fast pace in pork plants, coupled with the forceful and repetitive nature of most of the jobs, leads to high rates of injuries and health issues.
  • Meatpacking workers are injured at 2.4 times the rate of other industries. These injuries result in lost time or restrictions at three times the rate of other industries and they face illness rates at 17 times the rate of other industries.
  • The current maximum line speed for swine is 1,106 hogs per hour.
  • The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents 30,000 workers in the pork slaughter industry
  • UFCW members handle 71 percent of all hogs slaughtered and processed in the United States.

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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