When it comes to thinking about appropriate and ethical sponsors, we have always said it is important to look beyond product portfolios (AKA: the healthfulness, or lack thereof, of what companies sell) and examine other aspects of corporate behavior — including treatment of workers.
Oxfam’s newest report, “No Relief”, examines the deplorable working conditions faced by the roughly 250,000 poultry workers in the United States.
Debbie Berkowitz, Senior fellow at the National Employment Law Project, covered the report for Quartz.
- “Poultry workers say they routinely are denied time to use the bathroom. 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.”
- “In my work at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, I witnessed the dangers: poultry workers stand shoulder to shoulder on both sides of long conveyor belts, most using scissors or knives, in cold, damp, loud conditions, making the same forceful movements thousands upon thousands of times a day, as they skin, pull, cut, debone and pack the chickens. The typical plant processes 180,000 birds a day. A typical worker handles 40 birds a minute.”
- “To keep the lines running at all costs, the plants often deny poultry workers time to use the bathroom. Too many workers tell stories about urinating on themselves or witnessing coworkers do the same. Not only is it embarrassing and degrading, it’s also extremely uncomfortable to feel the warm urine in the frigid environment and to wear wet clothing in 40 degree temperatures. Hanson, one of the workers featured in the report, works at a Tyson plant in Arkansas and had the disheartening experience of seeing his own mother urinate on the line; she now wears diapers to work to avoid it happening again.”
- “In North Carolina, the problem is so large and so urgent that workers at a major KFC supplier recently launched a campaign demanding the right to bathroom breaks when they need to go. In a survey of hundreds of poultry workers in Alabama, nearly four in five said they were not allowed to use the bathroom. And a recent survey of workers in Minnesota found that 86% of respondents said they get only two bathroom breaks in a week. Oxfam’s report also cites a lawsuit against a Mississippi poultry company in which workers say their supervisors charged them for using the bathroom.”