Unions sue USDA over poultry processing speeds

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Unions sue USDA over poultry processing speeds

The USDA is being sued by labor unions over the line speeds of poultry processors.

The United Food and Commercial Workers, five of their local unions, and consumer advocacy group Public Citizen say USDA’s policy allowing faster slaughtering endangers workers and makes protecting against coronavirus more difficult.

The suit says 53 chicken plants are now allowed to process up to 175 birds per minute instead of the previous 140 bird limit.

USDA began allowing line speed waivers in 2018 at the request of the National Chicken Council, but the unions say the waivers should be rescinded because of inadequate public notice and no public comment period.

The unions represent ten processing plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Missouri.  So far, processors have not commented on the lawsuit. 

Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate that would end USDA’s line speed waivers, spearheaded by Democratic Senator Cory Booker.