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Kentucky Bishops Join National Effort In Support of 

Poultry Workers

Frankfort, KY – (June 28, 2001) Kentucky’s Roman Catholic bishops joined with 18 national religious and community organizations in asking Secretary Elaine Chao to seek a Department of Labor enforcement action for back pay to poultry industry workers. Estimates by the DOL place the total owed in back wages at 350 million dollars or more.


In a meeting on Tuesday June 28th organized by the National Interfaith Committee on Worker Justice, Catholic Conference of Kentucky staff hand delivered a letter from the bishops to Secretary Chao. In part, the bishops urged the Department of Labor ensure that poultry workers be paid for all hours worked in accordance with federal labor law. Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, Bishop John J. McRaith, Bishop J. Kendrick Williams, Bishop Robert W. Muench signed the letter asking Secretary Chao to follow-up on a 2000 field survey which found wage violations in the 51 poultry plants investigated. Last month more than 150 national religious and community leaders co-signed a letter to Secretary Chao asking that she enter negotiations with the poultry industry to resolve the wage dispute.


Scott Wegenast, a policy analyst with the Catholic Conference, said, "Secretary Chao stated that she is open to listening to all sides on this issue and not just the industry before making a decision." In recent months, the industry and 18 members of the Senate, including Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning have pressured Chao to drop the investigation. Wegenast also stated, "The decision by Secretary Chao in this dispute will set a precedence for all future actions by the Department. It is a critical time for all workers, especially those in low-wage industries."

The Department of Labor is expected to make its decision in the coming months. Secretary Chao stated that she is struggling to make all the necessary appointments to achieve full staffing.



Catholic Conference of Kentucky

1042 Burlington Lane

Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

502-875-4345 502-875-2841 Fax cckstaffATccky.org

Last modified: October, 2010