Mississippi poultry workers protest plant conditions
Two workers’ advocacy organizations in Mississippi have vowed to continue pushing for a bill that they say expands basic rights for those employed in the state’s poultry industry. The Mississippi Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the Coalition of Poultry Workers spoke out about the failed bill, as well as the USDA proposal to speed up line speeds in chicken plants, reports the Clarion Ledger.
Senate Bill 2668, which died Feb. 4 in the Senate Agriculture Committee, would have put into state law requirements that workers get bathroom breaks when they need them, not on a schedule, and that regular breaks are offered from the repetitive motions used to process chickens. The legislation would also have required employers to establish a committee made up of company representatives and a minimum of three employees to address health and safety concerns.
“Poultry workers around Mississippi are being treated just like the birds,” Sen. Kenny Wayne Jones, D-Canton, said at a news conference at the Capitol. Jones authored SB 2668.
The groups also oppose a regulation proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would increase from 140 to 175 the number of chickens workers process in one minute.
That would lead to more on-the-job injuries, said George Barlow, president of the workers coalition. He said he and other officials from the organization recently went to D.C. to voice their opposition to the increase.
“We wanted to make sure these people were heard,” he said.
Source: Clarion Ledger