America’s Largest Meatpacking Union Praises USDA Commitment to Prioritize Worker and Food Safety in Compliance with Federal District Court Ruling on Dangerous Trump-Era Line Speed Rule for Pork Plants
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents over 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers, praised the new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) response to the recent March 2021 federal district court ruling that found the Trump Administration acted unlawfully when it eliminated limits on the pork plant line speeds, without considering the increased risk of injury to workers. UFCW applauded today’s Biden Administration statement which makes clear the USDA is moving to comply with the court ruling on the safety risks of pork plant line speed increases.
UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:
“President Biden made a commitment to strengthen safety protections for America’s meatpacking workers on the frontlines of this pandemic. With today’s USDA statement, the Biden Administration is reaffirming its commitment to worker safety.
“As the union for our nation’s frontline pork plant workers, UFCW applauds the USDA’s decision to respect the district court’s ruling. The court recognized that the USDA must consider worker safety, and it is well known that dangerous production speeds increase the risks of injury to workers.
“UFCW is calling on CEOs across the pork industry to work with the USDA to slow their line speeds. The safety of America’s frontline food workers must never again take a backseat to corporate profits.”
UFCW International led the federal lawsuit that prompted this district court ruling on pork plant line speeds. Joining UFCW International in the lawsuit were Public Citizen as well as UFCW Local 663 in Minnesota, UFCW Local 440 in Iowa, and UFCW Local 2 in Kansas.
The March 2021 federal district court ruling was issued in United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local No. 663 v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, in which Public Citizen Litigation Group represented four UFCW locals and UFCW International, which represents 33,000 workers in the pork processing industry.
The court held that USDA acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it refused to consider the impact of eliminating line speeds on worker health and safety in a rule it issued creating the “New Swine Inspection System” (NSIS) in October 2019. The court also rejected the meatpacking industry’s arguments that increased line speeds do not put workers at increased risk of harm, citing mounds of evidence showing a relationship between high speeds and musculoskeletal injuries, lacerations, and amputations.
The court vacated the provision of NSIS that eliminates line speed limits but placed its order on hold for 90 days to allow USDA time to develop a plan with respect to those plants that have converted to NSIS.
COVID NUMBERS: UFCW recently confirmed that COVID-19 continues to threaten essential food workers nationwide, reporting that among the union’s members nationwide, there have already been at least:
- 462 frontline worker deaths and 93,300 frontline workers infected or exposed
- 132 meatpacking worker deaths and 22,290 meatpacking workers infected or exposed
- 60 food processing worker deaths and 11,700 food processing workers infected or exposed
UFCW International is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org.