US Poultry Workers Wear Diapers: Report

Denial of bathroom breaks a serious safety issue, affront to human dignity: Oxfam
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2016 6:33 AM CDT
Updated May 15, 2016 6:49 AM CDT
US Poultry Workers Wear Diapers: Report
Poultry plant employees may be forced to hold it in while at work.   (Shutterstock)

On the Pilgrim's Pride website, "prioritize the team over yourself" is one of the poultry producer's core values. But in something out of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, Bloomberg notes, an Oxfam America report suggests that "value" is really a humiliating issue for already marginalized workers in the US poultry industry (which the report notes is enjoying record profits): a denial of bathroom breaks, leading to workers urinating and defecating themselves on the processing line, keeping their fluid intake at dangerously low levels, and wearing diapers on the job. Workers from Pilgrim's, as well as Tyson Foods, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms—the four companies that make up 60% of the US poultry market, per a press release—are specifically called out in the "No Relief" report, compiled over three years via hundreds of interviews with current and ex-workers, medical experts, and advocacy groups. "It's not just their dignity that suffers: They are in danger of serious health problems," the report reads.

Per the report, supervisors poke fun at, threaten, or turn a blind eye to bathroom break requests, imposing strict time limits and forcing workers to wait more than an hour in some cases. Not only would these allegations be violations of OSHA "sanitary standards," such practices would also pose serious health risks, including UTIs (especially for women), kidney infections, and pressure on the bladder and urethra that could prove fatal. While Sanderson's CFO wouldn't comment on the report when contacted by Bloomberg, the other three companies all issued outraged statements noting they'll be checking up on the veracity. "Poultry workers are some of the most vulnerable people in our country—most are minorities and immigrants, some are recently resettled refugees," says a National Employment Law Project fellow. "Poultry companies know they can get away with [these] practices, because these workers are too fearful to speak up." (Amputations are also an issue in some plants.)

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