(ANTIMEDIA) A new report revealing another dirty side to America’s rapidly growing poultry industry claims workers are being denied bathroom breaks and are forced to soil themselves to keep up with production. Lifting the veil on the billion dollar industry while pointing to the human cost of cheap chicken, the new report has revealed thousands of poultry workers are being routinely denied their basic needs — forcing some to wear diapers.
The grim discovery was made by Oxfam America during research conducted for their latest report, “No Relief.” Based on three years of interviews, the investigation is part of the global organisation’s continuing campaign to advocate for improved conditions for U.S. poultry workers. Launched in 2015 with the comprehensive report, “Lives on the Line,” the campaign exposed the main challenges facing the 250,000 poultry workers in the U.S. They include poor compensation, high injury and illness rates, and a climate of fear.
Despite all that, workers said the thing that offends their dignity the most is the lack of adequate bathroom breaks and the suffering that entails — especially for women. “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; they restrict intake of liquids and fluids to dangerous degrees,” the report reads.
It names Tyson Foods Inc., Perdue Farms Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., and Sanderson Farms Inc., who together control around 60% of America’s poultry market. Dozens of interviews with current and former workers, worker advocates, attorneys, medical experts and analysts revealed that behind the scenes of an industry with record profits, life inside the processing plants is dark and dangerous.
Supervisors, who are under pressure to maintain the speed of the processing line, reportedly mocked workers’ needs and ignored their requests. Others were threatened with punishment or termination. Out of hundreds of interviews, only a handful of workers said their bathroom needs were respected.
In addition to being forced to endure pain and discomfort while worrying about job security, workers are in danger of serious health problems. One doctor explained the dangers of “holding it”:
“The longer you hold your urine, the bladder can become a breeding ground for bacteria to grow. This bacteria can lead to infections, which can spread to kidneys and cause greater damage to the body.”
After concluding the denial of regular access to the bathroom is a clear violation of U.S. workplace safety law and could also violate U.S. anti-discrimination laws, the report goes on to make a number of recommendations as to how firms can improve working conditions and respect workers’ rights. Following its release, Oxfam America took to social media to call on poultry companies to change their policies, using the hashtag #GiveThemABreak
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