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Union sues USDA over increased poultry line speeds

poultry plant

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and five local unions have filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture over increased poultry plant line speeds the department authorized in 2018.

The plaintiffs, represented by Public Citizens Litigation Group, argue in their complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, that the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service waiver program should be set aside and 10 currently active waivers should be voided.

In September 2018, the department announced that it would consider waivers filed by the poultry industry seeking to increase poultry slaughter line speeds to a maximum of 175 birds per minute. The law previously set the maximum poultry slaughter line speed at 140 birds per minute.

The complaint argues that the USDA failed to follow required procedures and ignored its own rules and policies when it adopted the program. It also contends that the increased speeds further endanger workers already facing risks from COVID-19. Worker outbreaks of COVID-19 have shuttered multiple poultry and meat processing plants.

An animal welfare group brought a lawsuit against the USDA in February over poultry processing line speeds, and another lawsuit was filed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union on behalf of swine processing workers in April.

More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here