Congressional Leaders Introduce Legislation to End Abusive Conditions for Meatpacking Workers

Statement by Dr. Ricardo Salvador, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Magaly Licolli, Venceremos

Published Feb 2, 2023

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Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) yesterday reintroduced the Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act, which would expand workplace safety and health protections for meat and poultry processing workers, ensuring safer line processing speeds and inspections, requiring OSHA standards to prevent occupational injuries and exposure to COVID-19, and ending punitive attendance policies that punish workers for getting sick. The bill also includes farm system reforms that crack down on monopolistic practices of large corporate companies, creating a fairer market that allows independent farmers and local food systems to thrive.

Below is a joint statement by Dr. Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists and Magaly Licolli, co-founder and executive director of Venceremos, a poultry workers’ organization in Arkansas.

“Giant industrial agriculture corporations like Tyson Foods have ‘hijacked’ our food system, consolidating control over meat and poultry production and boosting their profits at the expense of everyone else—especially meatpacking workers,” said Salvador. “These workers are subjected to degrading and dangerous conditions that put them at risk of serious injury and leave them unable to earn a living. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many meatpacking workers were treated as expendable and as a result thousands were sickened and hundreds died. With the Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act, we can begin to rein in companies like Tyson, ensuring that the people our food and farm system depends on have safe, healthy workplaces where they are treated with dignity and respect.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a disaster for poultry processing workers,” said Licolli. “Poultry processing companies have pushed workers to the brink, putting workers’ health and even their lives at risk, all while companies rake in record profits. I see too many workers struggling to get adequate care or sick leave for workplace injuries that will be with them for the rest of their lives. This legislation would put in place some of the most urgent workplace protections for the people who work so hard to put food on our tables.”