Trump USDA to Allow Faster Poultry Line Speeds, Ignoring Danger to Workers and Consumers

Following is a statement from Debbie Berkowitz, program director for worker safety and health with the National Employment Law Project, and former senior official with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

“In a stunning announcement, with no notice requesting comments from the public, the Trump administration’s Department of Agriculture (USDA) has declared that it will start a new program to allow chicken plants to increase their line speeds, despite increasing evidence that this will endanger vulnerable workers, public health, and animal welfare.

“The USDA had already studied whether to increase poultry line speeds, and it adopted a rule in 2014, with enormous public input, that rejected any line speed increases in order to best protect public and worker health. Yet, with no additional evidence or data provided, the administration has now decided to bend all the rules to benefit rich corporations at the expense of the well-being and safety of workers and consumers.

“Poultry workers suffer staggeringly high rates of work-related injury and illnesses—rates 60 percent higher than the average worker. Overwhelming evidence supports the conclusion that allowing poultry processing plants to operate with faster line speeds than allowable by law is inconsistent with the USDA’s waiver regulation, undermines the rulemaking process, violates the Administrative Procedure Act, and most of all, endangers both workers and consumers.”

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