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Advocacy groups | Federal agencies | Legislation | Agriculture, forestry and fishing | Musculoskeletal disorders

Groups claim poultry line speeds violate human rights

July 1, 2013

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Washington – Three advocacy groups on June 25 filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights alleging that unsafe conditions in poultry plants threaten workers’ basic human rights.

In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announcing the petition, the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest and Southern Poverty Law Center stated that current poultry line speeds lead to “crippling and even life-threatening injuries.” The groups are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to withdraw a proposed rule that would allow poultry plants to increase line speeds to 175 birds per minute.

As an alternative, the groups have proposed that USDA ask NIOSH to study have asked NIOSH to study how the rule will affect workers and recommend protections before the rule goes into effect. In April, NIOSH issued an interim report describing injuries at a North Carolina poultry processing plant. NIOSH representatives visited the plant in 2012 and found that most employees reported musculoskeletal symptoms and 42 percent had carpal tunnel syndrome.

Two of the groups also previously published a report telling the stories of injured poultry workers.