Nation’s Poultry Processing Workers
Frankfort, KY – (May 13, 2002) Kentucky’s Roman Catholic bishops praised the Department of Labor and Secretary Elaine Chao for securing a ten million dollar consent judgment in favor of poultry processing workers in Purdue Farms, Inc., plants across the nation. The Department of Labor announced the settlement on Friday May 9, 2002. The DOL also announced its law suit against Tyson Foods Inc., seeking back wages and a similar change in illegal pay practices.
Nearly one year ago, the Catholic Conference of Kentucky joined with the National Interfaith Committee on Worker Justice and 18 national religious and community organizations in a plea to DOL Secretary Elaine Chao seeking action on behalf of poultry workers to reclaim back wages and stop the illegal labor practices.
The Department’s settlement is estimated at $10 million and will compensate an some 25,000 present and past Perdue Farms Inc. In the consent judgment, Purdue agreed to pay the back wages and change its current and future pay practices at all of its processing facilities. At issue was the accounting for time that employees spent waiting for protective gear and the time spent donning and doffing their safety gear. A 2000 DOL study found that 100 percent of the poultry plants in the survey failed to pay workers for all hours worked, and 35 percent of poultry workers had illegal deductions taken from their paychecks.
According to CCK policy analyst Scott Wegenast, "Justice has been served and this is a great victory for all workers in low-wage jobs. Our Catholic tradition views work as more than simply a way to make a living; all workers have a basic right to decent working conditions and a just wage. The poultry industry is not exempt and must be held accountable for its actions." In Kentucky, an estimated 5,500 persons work in poultry processing plants located throughout rural Western and South Central Kentucky.
The Catholic Conference’s Executive Director, Jane Chiles, said, "Historically, DOL has fought to protect workers in many industries, especially in low wage industries. This settlement with Purdue Farms will set the tone for compliance across the entire industry." In a November 2000 Pastoral Letter, Voices and Choices, released by the Catholic Bishops of the South, the bishops stated "…We do not mean to single out this one productive business as unique. We use the poultry industry as an example of other businesses, in agriculture and manufacturing, which share the same challenges, whether furniture is being made, produce picked, or livestock raised under contract."
Catholic Conference of Kentucky
1042 Burlington Lane
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
502-875-4345 502-875-2841 Fax cckstaffATccky.org
Last modified: October, 2010