Winner, winner, chicken dinner? Not for two leading U.S. poultry processors, who are facing charges of violating child labor laws. Here’s what’s happening.
A Game of Chicken?
The United States Labor Department told NPR in late September that they’re investigating both Perdue and Tyson after receiving some disturbing news.
According to the Labor Department, more than one whistleblower has contacted them to report that kids as young as 13 were cleaning chicken processing plants.
More Bad Poultry News
The ongoing investigation is a follow-up to a staggering report from New York Times Magazine earlier in the month that detailed a horror story involving a 14-year-old boy.
Tastes Like Chicken?
The NYT piece reported that the boy had been working the nighttime cleanup shift at a Perdue slaughter house in Virginia when a piece of machinery nearly ripped his arm off.
Contractors Cutting Corners
The story goes on to say that this boy was one of many underage workers hired by a firm that Perdue contracted for cleaning duties.
Not Off the Hook
That puts some distance between Perdue decision makers and the children who are in harm’s way, but it doesn’t necessarily exonerate them.
No Kids Allowed
According to federal law, no one under 18 is allowed to do the jobs these kids are tasked with. Some of those chores involve heavy machinery and the use of acid.
Perdue Taking Action
A Perdue spokesperson said that the Labor Department has informed them of the ongoing investigation, but that the company is not waiting for the outcome of that investigation to take action.
They’re Looking at Everything
Instead, Perdue has engaged a third-party auditor to take a look at their child labor and safety practices.
They are including their contractors in this internal audit.
“We take the legal employment and safety of each individual working in our facilities very seriously,” said the spokesperson.
It Goes to the Top
While the Labor Department says they can’t comment on the current investigations at this time, it’s not hard to draw a line to the very top of the political food chain.
Biden Cracks Down
Early in 2023, President Biden made a public promise to get tough on child labor law violations.
Trouble Under Trump
That vow came in the wake of the latest Labor Department statistics that show child labor law violations have exploded since 2015.
Bad News on the Doorstep
Along the way, several high-profile stories have emerged about underage workers being hurt or killed in workplace accidents, doing jobs they were not permitted to perform by law.
No Place Was Safe
NPR cites examples that include child laborers falling from high distances and other machine-related accidents.
One of the major early targets of the Biden administration was Packers Sanitation Services Inc., a third-party sanitation service fined $1.5 million for violations back in February.
Even so, the Biden administration did not specifically target food companies in their opening salvo against child labor violations earlier this year.
Tyson Plays Dumb
That appears to be changing now, even though Tyson says they have no knowledge of the Labor Department’s investigation at this point.
Big Trouble Ahead
Regardless of whether that’s true or not, it seems the chicken is about to hit the fan.
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The post Poultry Processors Have Been Playing Chicken With Child Labor Laws first appeared on Career Step Up.
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