Building Safe and Healthy Workplaces for Every Worker in America

Despite a 45-year-old law requiring employers to provide a safe workplace, more than 4,800 working people are killed on the job every year, and nearly three million are seriously injured. Many low-wage jobs are dangerous jobs where workers suffer much higher rates of serious job injuries.

For injured workers—especially low-wage workers—a work injury can cause serious physical suffering and have enormous economic consequences, since studies show that workers pick up almost 50 percent of the costs of a work-related injury.

NELP is working to strengthen safety and health protections for low-wage workers by fighting for improved safety and health standards and workers’ compensation laws; advocating for robust enforcement of safety and anti-retaliation protections in low-wage industries; and building effective campaigns to hold low-wage employers accountable.

Lifting Labor Standards in the Poultry Industry

The poultry processing industry slaughters and processes 8.5 billion chickens a year, and with poultry now claiming the title of America’s most popular meat, profits are soaring. (Tyson Foods, the largest poultry processor, reported $461 million in profits for the final quarter of 2016, and announced it is expecting record profits in 2017.)

But for working people in this industry, who make on average $12.50 an hour, the picture is far more bleak. They reap none of the benefits of the industry’s success while making all the sacrifices: they are paid poverty-level wages, suffer wage theft and other violations, and spend long hours in disturbingly unsafe and unhealthy workplaces, leading to rampant on-the-job injuries and work-related illnesses.

While animal-cruelty violations in poultry are widely publicized and raise much public outcry, the industry’s treatment of human beings flies under the radar. But make no mistake: America’s poultry processors are engaged in a race to the bottom on labor standards. As part of our efforts to strengthen health and safety protections for workers, NELP is dedicated to improving labor standards for poultry workers and protecting them from on-the-job harm, while taking their highly profitable employers to task for their mistreatment.

Poultry Work Resources:

Defending Workers' Rights to Compensation for Work-Related Injuries and Illness

Workers’ compensation, often known as the “grand bargain,” is failing workers—big time. Over the past two decades, changes in state laws governing workers’ compensation—a system that has been in place for more than 100 years—have made it harder and harder for injured workers to receive adequate benefits, which are paltry when they are awarded. Further, an increasing number of studies confirm that only a fraction of injured workers receive any benefits at all. And many compensation laws contain exclusions for entire occupations, including farm workers and domestic workers—as well as workers in alternative work arrangements that are considered independent contractors.

A work-related injury can have enormous emotional and financial consequences for workers and their families. The costs of workplace injuries—including medical bills, time missed on the job, and the loss of income to a household when a worker is killed on the job—are rapidly shifting from employers, who are much better able to offset those costs by purchasing workers’ compensation insurance, to workers, their families, and the taxpayer funded social safety net. This system has no federal oversight nor any federal minimum standards—the power lies totally in the hands of state governments.

We hope the following resources will be useful to  advocates working on improving their state’s workers’ compensation laws and preventing further rollbacks of these critical worker protections.

Workers’ Compensation Resources:

Take the Pledge to Support Strong Workplace Health and Safety Protections

Despite a 45-year-old law requiring employers to provide a safe workplace, more than 4,800 working people are killed on the job every year, and nearly three million are seriously injured.

In Congress and state legislatures, politicians are rolling back workplace safety protections and cutting the benefits injured workers need to get back on their feet and back to work.  That’s just not right—and we need to change it.

Working people who can’t count on politicians to do the right thing know that they can count on us to fight back for them.  Can they count on you, too?  Join us in saying “We Stand with Workers!” Pledge your support for safe and healthy workplaces and fair treatment of injured workers. Take the pledge!

 

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