Workers in the meat-processing industry may be on the chopping block in the final weeks of the Trump administration. Less than a week after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released news of a proposed regulatory change to speed up the processing of carcasses at chicken factories. An earlier effort by the same agency lost steam amid concerns that the higher processing volumes could lead to more worker injuries.
While every administration tries to push through similar last-minute decisions, called midnight regulations, particularly when the executive office is coming under the control of a different party, some of the changes underway could deal a blow to worker protections, according to investigative news outlet ProPublica.
ProPublica pointed to evidence that speeding up the volume of meat-processing plants heightens risk of worker injuries like carpal tunnel as well as traumatic injuries like cuts and amputations. The USDA notes that it is only responsible for food safety, while worker safety issues lie with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“This last-minute push for an ill-advised rule change could be deadly for essential workers in slaughterhouses,” Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, an advocacy group for safer working conditions, told ProPublica.
The Trump administration is also pushing through a rule to lower wages for “low-skilled” immigrant farmworkers, and trying to make it easier for gig economy companies like Uber to classify workers as independent contractors rather than full employees with benefits and worker protections.
Earlier this year, more than 100 workers were infected with coronavirus and at least one died at a Tyson Fresh Meats packing plant in Wallula, Washington due to a failure to implement COVID-19 safety guidance.
If your employer has cut corners and put your safety at risk, call Emery Reddy. You won’t get better advice.