Poultry processing, a thankless job

A recent survey of over 60 poultry workers at several plants in the Delmarva region, conducted by Maryland Legal Aid and others, gives a gloom look into the poultry industry.
Op-Ed (Maryland)

Minor Sinclair
Baltimore Sun
February 9, 2016

Tags: Employment, Workers Rights

Organizations mentioned/involved: Maryland Legal Aid


The survey shows that transformation from bird to wings isn’t easy, isn’t pretty, and it sure isn’t safe. Workers endure cold, wet, slippery and dangerous conditions; they incur a lot of damage to their bodies; they struggle to keep pace with the line; and they earn low wages.

Workers report that despite their long, hard hours, they struggle for respect, even for such fundamental rights as bathroom breaks. One woman who works at a Perdue plant says, “One time they didn’t let me go to the bathroom and so I had to relieve myself on the line. A lot of people just leave the line to go to bathroom; and then they lose their job because [the supervisors] say they’ve abandoned their work.” Nearly three quarters (72 percent) of those surveyed knew of workers wearing diapers or relieving themselves on the line.

And poultry processing takes a toll on the body. Rates of occupational illness among poultry workers are five times higher than among all workers in the U.S. Dangers include amputations, cuts and lacerations, slips, trips, falls, respiratory hazards and exposure to dangerous chemicals.