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No relief: Denial of bathroom breaks in the poultry industry

By staff - OxFam, 2016

As poultry workers are routinely denied adequate bathroom breaks, they face dangers to their health and blows to their dignity.

While the poultry industry today enjoys record profits and pumps out billions of chickens, the reality of life inside the processing plant remains grim and dangerous. Workers earn low wages, suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, toil in difficult conditions, and have little voice in the workplace.

Despite all that, though, workers say the thing that offends their dignity most is simple: lack of adequate bathroom breaks, and the suffering that entails, especially for women.

Routinely, poultry workers say, they are denied breaks to use the bathroom. Supervisors mock their needs and ignore their requests; they threaten punishment or firing. Workers wait inordinately long times (an hour or more), then race to accomplish the task within a certain timeframe (e.g., ten minutes) or risk discipline.

Workers struggle to cope with this denial of a basic human need. They urinate and defecate while standing on the line; they wear diapers to work; they restrict intake of liquids and fluids to dangerous degrees; they endure pain and discomfort while they worry about their health and job security. And it’s not just their dignity that suffers: they are in danger of serious health problems.

The situation strikes women particularly hard. They face biological realities such as menstruation, pregnancy, and higher vulnerability to infections; and they struggle to maintain their dignity and privacy when requesting breaks.

Supervisors deny requests to use the bathroom because they are under pressure to maintain the speed of the processing line, and to keep up production. Once a poultry plant roars to a start at the beginning of the day, it doesn’t stop until all the chickens are processed. Workers are reduced to pieces of the machine, little more than the body parts that hang, cut, trim, and load—rapidly and relentlessly.By its nature, it is demanding and exhausting work.

But it does not have to be dehumanizing, and it does not have to rob people of their dignity and health.

Read the report (Link).

Child laborers bring case against food companies: “You’re enabling enslavement”

By Irit Tamir - Oxfam, September 26, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The US Alien Tort Statute is pried back open for foreign victims of corporate human rights abuses to find justice.

A class action suit brought by a group of trafficked children from Mali to the US 9th Circuit Court may have an impact on how corporations develop their business models in the future.

In John Doe et al v. Nestle et al, child plaintiffs argued that Nestle, ADM, and Cargill aided and abetted enslavement (and numerous violations of international and US law) in the companies’ cocoa supply chains. The former child slave laborers were allegedly trafficked by cocoa growers into Cote D’Ivoire and forced to work in fields that supplied cocoa beans to the defendants in the case. The court held that they could bring the action under the US Alien Tort Statute. Since 1980, courts have interpreted this statute to allow foreign citizens to seek remedies in US courts for human rights violations for conduct committed outside US borders.

For too long now, many industries have profited from inhuman working conditions, seeing labor as yet another line item that can be manipulated in terms of cost. Driving working conditions and wages to the lowest common denominator keeps the costs of commodities as low as possible. It is well known that enslavement conditions and child labor are often too common in the production of palm oil, tomatoes, strawberries, and cocoa, as well as in the mining sector.

The Fine Print I:

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