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Kentucky Bishops Call for Scrutiny of Poultry Industry Labor Standards

Frankfort, KY – (May 24, 2001) Roman Catholic bishops in Kentucky joined with national religious leaders and worker rights advocates in calling on the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to maintain the DOL’s scrutiny of the U.S. poultry industry’s compliance with federal labor standards.

Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, Bishop John J. McRaith and Bishop J. Kendrick Williams signed an open letter in support of the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice’s statement of concern to Secretary Chao regarding the current settlement negotiations with the poultry industry. Representatives of the National Interfaith Committee on Worker Justice today hand delivered the letter to Secretary Chao’s Washington D.C. office. More than 150 national religious and community leaders co-signed the letter to Secretary Chao. In Kentucky, copies of the statement were delivered to DOL’s Louisville Wage and Hour Field Office, KY Labor Secretary Joe Norsworthy, and John Hack, Executive Director of the Governor’s Agriculture Policy Commission.

As pastoral leaders of the state’s Roman Catholic community, the bishops’ goal is to bring continued attention by the general public and the DOL to working conditions in Kentucky’s four poultry processing operations. Approximately 5,500 employees work in poultry processing plants located throughout rural Western and South Central Kentucky. According to Scott Wegenast, a policy analyst with CCK, "In the Catholic tradition work is viewed 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 DOL has a special obligation to monitor and protect these workers in accordance with federal labor standards."

The Catholic Conference’s Executive Director, Jane Chiles, said, "Historically, DOL has fought to protect workers in many industries, especially in low wage industries. Today’s action by the bishops is part of a nationwide effort to persuade DOL to make compliance by the poultry industry a top priority." 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."


Attachments: (2)

Open Letter to Secretary Chao

List of Signatories (abbreviated)

An Open Letter to Secretary Elaine Chao and the U.S. Department of Labor:


Hold the Poultry Industry Accountable for their Violations

Dear Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao,

We, the undersigned people of faith and community leaders, respectfully urge the U.S. Department of Labor to hold our nation’s poultry industry accountable for its violations of U.S. Wage and Hour laws. The Department of Labor, in 1997, found that over half of all poultry plants investigated were in violation of Wage and Hour laws. In a follow-up investigation in 2000, the Department of Labor found that every single poultry plant investigated was guilty of similar violations. According to the Department of Labor’s figures, our poultry industry appears to have gone from bad to worse in terms of wage and hour violations. This dangerous and immoral trend must be stopped and corrected.

We understand that the poultry industry has been in settlement negotiations with the Department of Labor. The industry is quite possibly pressuring you to reduce scrutiny of the poultry industry, and to ease up on potential future compliance mechanisms and fines.

Secretary Chao, we have joined together to call upon you to see that justice is done in our nation’s poultry plants, for the good of the 250,000 poultry plant workers, and for the communities that they live in. We trust that you will strictly apply and enforce the relevant wage and hour laws of our country. Specifically, we request that you:

  1. Levy significant fines against the poultry industry for their egregious violations.
  2. Commit resources to find workers and award them their back wages. (This approach is important, due to the high rate of turnover among poultry plant workers.)
  3. Institute mechanisms to ensure future compliance.
  4. Continue strict scrutiny of the poultry industry.

We very much appreciate your time and attention to this most serious matter. As the Catholic Bishops of the South have stated in their poultry pastoral document of last November, all people of faith and people of conscience in general must come together to help bring justice to our nation’s poultry industry. We stand ready to assist in that growing national effort.


We, the undersigned religious and community leaders, support the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice’s statement of concern to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, regarding the current settlement negotiations with the poultry industry:

National Religious Leaders

The Right Rev. Frederick H. Borsch, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles

Mahdi Bray, National Political Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and President, Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations

Bishop William P. DeVeaux, Sr., President of the Council of Bishops, African Methodist Episcopal Church*

Bishop Jesse DeWitt, United Methodist Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan*

The Most Rev. Joseph A. Fiorenza, Bishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas

The Most Rev. Patrick Flores, Archbishop of San Antonio, Texas

The Most Rev. Thomas J. Gumbleton, Bishop of Detroit

The Most Rev. Curtis Guillory, Bishop of Beaumont, Texas

Rev. Richard L. Hamm, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)*

The Most Rev. Richard C. Hanifen, Bishop of Colorado Springs

Monsignor George Higgins, Catholic University, Washington, D.C.

The Most Reverend William R. Houck, Bishop of Jackson, Mississippi

Father Ted Keating, Director, Conference of Major Superiors of Men

The Most Rev. Thomas C. Kelly, Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky

The Most Rev. John J. McRaith, Bishop of Owensboro, Kentucky*

Rev. Bennie R. Mitchell, Jr., Director, National Baptist Convention’s Labor Relations Department

The Most Rev. Robert M. Moody, Bishop of Oklahoma City

Dr. Hilbert Stanley, Executive Director, The National Black Catholic Congress*

The Most Rev. Paul A. Stewart, Sr., Bishop, and Ecumenical Officer, Christian Episcopal Methodist Church*

The Most Rev. Walter F. Sullivan, Bishop of Richmond, Virginia

The Most Rev. Joseph E. Taylor, Bishop and Presiding Prelate, Faith Fellowship Ministries

Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

The Most Rev. J. Kendrick Williams, Bishop of Lexington

The Rt. Rev. McKinley Young, Bishop, Tenth Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church*

Rev. John A. Buehrens, President, Unitarian Universalists Association*


Arkansas Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice

Center for Women’s Economic Alternatives, Ahoskie, North Carolina

Chicago Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues

Detroit Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice

El Puente, Gainesville, Georgia

Farmworker Justice Fund, Washington, D.C.

Georgia Poultry Justice Alliance

Houston Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice

Interfaith Council of Santa Clara, California

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund)

National Council of La Raza

National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice

North Carolina Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice

Ohio Catholic Rural Life Conference

Pax Christi U.S.A.

Rural Life Committee, North Carolina Council of Churches

South Florida Committee for Worker Justice

Southern Arizona Alliance for Economic Justice, Tucson, Arizona

Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community

United Poultry Growers

We Gather and Stand Together: Immigrant Worker Project of Ohio


Additional Religious and Community Leaders

Father Jose Aaron, Hispanic Ministries, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Ft. Smith, Arkansas*

Sister Alicia Alvarado, Director, Office of Hispanic Ministry, Diocese of Cleveland*

Rev. Robert M. Anderson, Bishop Assistant, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles

Mr. Fred Azcarate, Executive Director, Jobs with Justice

Ms. Betty Bailey, Executive Director, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA

Sister Michelle Balek, OSF, Northern American Region, Franciscans International*

Rev. Nancy Bitterling, Pastor, Grace United Methodist Church, Niles, Michigan*

Rev. John Boonstra, Executive Minister, Washington State Association of Churches*

Father Edward F. Boyle, S.J., Executive Director, Labor Guild, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston*

Father Eugene Boyle, Santa Clara, California

Mr. John Braxton, Director, Philadelphia Area Jobs with Justice

Ms. Cynthia Brown, Southerners for Economic Justice, Durham, North Carolina*

Mr. Michael Brown, Social Action Director, Congregation Beth El, Boston*

Ms. Trudy Brubaker, Director for Corporate Social Responsibility, Division for Church in Society, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Right Rev. Jon Bruno, Bishop Coadjutor, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles

Rev. Gordon Neil Bucher, Pastor, Edgewater Presbyterian Church, Chicago*

Ms. Vidette Bullock-Mixon, General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, United Methodist Church*

Mr. Armando Carbajal, Associacion de Trabajadores Latinos de Norte Carolina (Latino Workers Association of North Carolina)*

Sister Genevieve Cassani, SSND, Mission Effectiveness, School Sisters of Notre Dame—St. Louis, MO, Province

Mr. Ernesto Chacon, Director, Federacion para Accion Civica (Federation for Civic Action), Milwaukee, WI

Rev. K.C. Chanthorn, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Ft. Smith, Arkansas*

Mr. Thomas Choquette, Chairperson, Cincinnati Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice

Ms. Marilyn Clement, Executive Secretary for Economic Justice, Women’s Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries*

Ms. Mary Clouse, Director, Contract Ag Reform Project, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, Pittsboro, North Carolina*

Sister Mary Colbert, SSND, Director, Global Justice Office, School Sisters of Notre Dame

Rev. Steve Copley, Pastor, Gillette United Methodist Church, Gillette, Arkansas

Rev. William T. Corcoran, Pastor, St. Linus Church, Oak Lawn, Illinois

Mr. Joshua Cradall, Coordinator, Iowa Faith and Labor Network

Ms. Sarrae Crane, Director of Social Action & Public Policy, The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism*

Father Robert Dalton, Director, Glenmary Lay Pastoral Coordinators, Nashville, Tennessee*

Mr. Mike Daniels, Coordinator, Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, A Social Action Program of the San Diego Faith Communities*

Sister Kathlenn Desautels, SP, 8th Day Center for Justice, Chicago

Mr. Tim Dewane, Director, Global Justice and Peace, School Sisters of Notre Dame—Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Province

Mr. Richard L. Dockery, Jr., President, Mobile Interfaith Alliance, Mobile, Alabama*

Rev. Chris Dorsey, Minister, Park Manor Christian Church, Chicago*

Monsignor John Egan, Community Affairs, Depaul University*

Rev. Theodore H. Erickson, United Church of Christ, Ligonier, Pennsylvania*

Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director, Greater NY Labor-Religion Coalition

Rev. Matt Fitzgerald, Pastor, Epiphany United Church of Christ, Chicago

Sister Elise Forst, OSB, St. Scholastica Monastery, Ft. Smith, Arkansas*

Rev. Dr. Mark Fowler, Director of Field Education, Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois

Mr. Clay Fulcher, Attorney, Lingle and Fulcher Law Firm, Rogers, Arkansas*

Rev. Louis M. Gandolfi, Pastor, Santa Maria Addolorata Church, Chicago*

Rev. Leo Gomez, Pastor, Our Lady of Grace Church, Chicago*

Sister Jackie Griffith, SSJ, Director, Office of Catholic Social Services, Diocese of Savannah, Georgia*

Rev. Bennett Guess, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ

Mr. Mark Harrison, Program Director, United Methodist Board of Church and Society*

Sister Joan Hart, SSND, Coordinator, Justice and Peace Office, Baltimore School Sisters of Notre Dame

Rev. C.J. Hawking, United Methodist Church, Bloomington, Indiana*

Ms. Tiffany L. Heath, Legislative Director, Church Women United

Dr. Mary Heidecamp, Visiting Assistant Professor, Univ. of Illinois-Chicago

Ms. Karen Hessel, Program Director, Justice for Women Working Group, National Council of Churches

Mr. Kevin E. Hunter, Coordinator, St. Joseph Valley Project, South Bend, Indiana

Brother Larry Johnson, Co-Convener, the Glenmary Commission on Justice*

Rev. Nelson Johnson, Vice-President, Greensboro Pulpit Forum, Greensboro, North Carolina

Father Tom Joyce, Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Chicago

Sister Joan Jurski, OSF, Office of Peace and Justice, Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina*

Mr. Thomas Karson, Arkansas Committee on Occupational Safety and Health

Ms. Gail T. Kelley, North Carolina Rural Health Coalition*

Ms. Lori Khamala, Interfaith Outreach Coordinator, North Carolina Office, National Farm Worker Ministry*

Father Clete Kiley, Archdiocese of Chicago

Mr. David Klein, Director, Calumet Project*

Mr. Bill Kopsky, Executive Director, Arkansas Public Policy Panel

Rev. Dr. Wallace Ryan Kuroiwa, Economic Justice, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ

Rev. Judith LaRoue, Associate Pastor, First Christian Church, Ft. Smith, Arkansas

Ms. Evely Laser Shlensky, Commission on Social Action for Reform Judaism*

Rev. David Leslie, Executive Director, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon*

Rev. Jim Lewis, President, Delmarva Poultry Justice Alliance, and Missioner, Sussex Country Mission of the Episcopal Church

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Director, Torah of Money, The Shefa Fun*

Mr. Gary Locklear, Missionary, General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church

Ms. Linda Lotz, Central Unit, American Friends Service Committee*

Rev. W. Joseph Mann, Duke Endowment, North Carolina*

Rev. Brenda Marion, Minister, First Church of God Christian Life Center, Evanston, Illinois

Sister Catherine Markey, O.S.B., member of the Arkansas Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, and St. Scholastica Monastery, Ft. Smith, Arkansas*

Rabbi Robert Marx, Congregation Hakafa, Glencoe, Illinois*

Sister Evelyn Mattern, North Carolina Council of Churches*

Rev. Linda McCrae, Pastor, Wood Memorial United Methodist Church, Van Buren, Arkansas

Ms. Kathleen McQuillen, Program Director, American Friends Service Committee, Des Moines, Iowa

Mr. Randall Merritt, Acting Executive Director, Georgia Rural Urban Summit

Ms. Laurie Michalowski, General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, United Methodist Church*

Rabbi Jay Henry Moses, Temple Sholom, Chicago*

Ms. Cynthia Nance, Associate Prof. of Law, Univ. of Arkansas, and member, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Father Joe Nangle, OFM, Director, Franciscan Mission Service*

Ms. Virginia Nesmith, Executive Director, National Farm Worker Ministry*

Mr. Tom O’Conner, North Carolina Occupational Saftey and Health

Rev. George E. Ogle, United Methodist Church

Rev. Kirk B. Oldham, Raleigh Wesley Foundation, North Carolina*

Mr. Brian O’Shaughnessy, Director, New York State Labor-Religion Coalition

Dr. Barbara Paleczny, SSND, Shalom Coordinator, Dallas Province, School Sisters of Notre Dame

Sister Jean Phelan, SSND, Provincial Councilor, Chicago Province, School Sisters of Notre Dame

Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson, Executive Minister, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ

Sister Eileen Reilly, SSND, Peace and Justice Coordinator, Wilton, Connecticut Province, School Sisters of Notre Dame*

Mr. Richard Renner, President, Hispanic Ministries of Tuscarawas County, Dover, Ohio*

Rev. Michael Rouse, Pastor, St. Catherine A.M.E. Zion Church, New Rochelle, New York

Sister Rosalie Ruesewald, OSB, Chairperson, Social Awareness Committee of St. Scholastica

Monastery, Ft. Smith, Arkansas*

Rev. Dr. William H. Ruth, Pastor, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Livingston, California

Father Juan Pedro Sanchez Espinoza, Pastor, Resurrection Catholic Church, Chicago

Father Les Schmidt, Bishops Liaison, The Catholic Committee of the South*

Rev. James Sessions, United Methodist Church, Knoxville, Tennessee*

Rev. Paul H. Sherry, Past President, United Church of Christ*

Mr. Arnold Simonese, General Coordinator, Glenmary Co-Missioners*

Ms. Tamara Spira, Jewish Organizing Initiative

Rev. Bruce E. Stanley, Duke Divinity School, North Carolina *

Ms. Susan Stevenot Sullivan, Communications Coordinator, The Catholic Committee of the South*

Rev. Ron Stief, Director, Washington Office, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ

Dr. Wayne C. Stumme, Coordinator, Church and Labor Concerns, Institute for Mission in the USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Deacon Curtiss J. Talley, Director, Office of Multicultural Ministries, Catholic Diocese of Memphis*

Rev. Cheste L. Talton, Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles

Ms. Justine Thompson, Executive Director, Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest

Ms. Kathleen Tomlin, Public Policy Manager, Archdiocesan Office for Social Justice, Minneapolis-St. Paul Archdiocese

Rev. Julia Webb-Bowen, Society of St. Andrew of North Carolina*

Rev. Mark Wendorf, Assistant Professor of Urban Ministry, McCormick Theological Seminary*

Sister Jeanne Wingenter, SSND, Coordinator, Office for Social Justice, Mankato Province, School Sisters of Notre Dame

Father Kenneth Wittington, Pastor, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Morganton, North Carolina*

Mr. Andrew A. Zampini, Director, Parish Social Ministry, Catholic Charities, Inc., Wilmington, Delaware

*Organizations listed for identification purposes only.


Catholic Conference of Kentucky

1042 Burlington Lane

Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

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

Last modified: October, 2010