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September 17, 2019

UFCW: New USDA Pork Plant Rule Endangers Safety of American Workers and Consumers

Union Representing 30,000 Pork Workers Across the Country Condemns New USDA Policy Increasing Line Speed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) condemned the new rule issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that allows for unlimited line speed increases at swine slaughter plants which will endanger the safety of workers and our food. UFCW President Marc Perrone, who represents thousands of meatpacking workers across the country, released the following statement:

“Today’s USDA rule sends a clear message that this administration values corporate profits more than the safety of America’s food and workers. Increasing pork plant line speeds is a reckless corporate giveaway that would put thousands of workers in harm’s way as they are forced to meet impossible demands.

“This new rule would also dramatically weaken critical protections that Americans depend on to be able to select safe, healthy food to feed their families every day. We urge the USDA to put the safety of American workers and consumers first and stop this dangerous rule.”


BACKGROUND

In May 2018, more than 6,500 UFCW members who work in pork plants submitted comments to the USDA in opposition to the proposed rule that would increase the line speeds where they work, threatening both them and the consumers they serve.

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

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 includes 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 disproportionately 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