Top US poultry producers face federal investigation over claims of child migrants cleaning slaughterhouses

Top US poultry producers face federal investigation over claims of child migrants cleaning slaughterhouses

The Department of Labor launched inquiries into Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms after reports of children’s grueling working conditions at the companies’ plants surfaced.

“There are currently US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigations open at Perdue and Tyson Foods. No additional details can be provided as the investigations are ongoing,” a Labor Department spokesperson told CBS News.

The federal probe into the poultry producers comes after a bombshell report published in New York Times Magazine that zeroed in on the disturbing details of a 14-year-old boy who came from Guatemala to Virginia in order to support his family by working the overnight shifts at a Perdue plant. His arm was nearly torn off while working at a slaughterhouse, the article reported.

The article also documented other cases of children conducting similar work at the Perdue plant, as well as at a nearby Tyson plant. These two companies produce one in three pounds of poultry consumed in the US, the article stated.

Federal law restricts individuals under age 16 from working certain hours, and prohibits minors from working in meat processing plants due to the hazardous conditions.

The Independent has reached out to the Department of Labor, Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms.

A spokesperson for Perdue told CBS News that the company was “appalled” by the illegal child labour claims.

“We take the legal employment and safety of each individual working in our facilities very seriously and have strict, longstanding policies in place for Perdue associates to prevent minors from working hazardous jobs in violation of the law,” the spokesperson said. “We recognize the systemic nature of this issue and embrace any role we can play in a solution.”

Tyson, however, told the outlet that it had not been made aware of an investigation, so the company did not offer a comment.

The NYT Magazine article reported that the poultry producers used contractors to hire cleaning staff — a way to circumvent accountability for skirting child labour laws.

One food sanitation contractor recently was forced to pay a $1.5 million penalty for employing over 100 children to work the overnight shifts at meat processing plants across the country, a Department of Labor investigation found in February.

The chief legal officer for the Department of Labor, Seema Nanda, told the New York Times the Biden administration is now looking into whether the larger companies can be held responsible.

“We are long past the day when brands can say that they don’t know that they have child labor in their supply chain,” Ms Nanda said. “The intention is to make sure that those higher up in the supply chain are holding their subcontractors and staffing agencies accountable.”