A new report by Oxfam America reveals that many poultry farms across the United States place their workers in inhumane working conditions.
In the report released Wednesday, workers claimed that they were denied bathroom breaks because they were not allowed to leave the processing line during work.
“Workers struggle to cope with this denial of a basic human need. They urinate and defecate while standing on the line; they wear diapers to work,” the report said.
Under U.S. safety laws, access to a bathroom is mandatory and bathroom breaks should be provided whenever necessary.
Debbie Berkowitz, one of contributors acknowledged in Oxfam’s report, detailed her personal observations of poultry plants via a Quartz post: “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.”
The 15-page report by Oxfam also highlights how women suffer disproportionately with such a work environment:
“The situation strikes women particularly hard. They face biological realities such as menstruation, pregnancy, and higher vulnerability to infections; and they struggle to maintain their dignity and privacy when requesting breaks.”
Among the four poultry producers mentioned in the report — Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms and Sanderson Farms — only Sanderson Farms has chosen not to respond to the report.
Tyson questioned the validity of the report and maintained that the company does “not tolerate the refusal of requests to use the restroom.” Perdue stated that the “anecdotes reported are not consistent” with the company’s policies and that workers can anonymously report any “illegal or unethical” conduct in their facilities through their open door policy. Pilgrim’s Pride said the allegations would be “clear violations of company policy” if proven true.