"Lives on the line": Oxfam report documents poor working conditions in the US poultry industry

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Article
26 February 2016

Commentary: Oxfam America pushes top poultry companies to improve working conditions; includes company responses

Author: Robbie Silverman, Oxfam America

"Turning up the heat on the poultry industry", 25 Feb 2016

This month, Oxfam presented shareholder resolutions at the annual investor meetings of Tyson Foods and Sanderson Farms calling on the companies to provide more information about the health and safety of poultry workers.  Both company proposals received strong support from investors—a clear sign that the people who own these companies are becoming more concerned about how they treat their workers...We targeted the top four poultry companies—Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms—which control nearly 60 percent of the domestic chicken market...Sanderson provided a lengthy and detailed response in opposition to our proposal...We also ran an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun reporting on a survey of local poultry workers near the headquarters of Perdue in Maryland that reaffirmed the findings of the Oxfam report.  Our op-ed drew a response from Perdue, which we posted on our company response website...

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Article
24 November 2015

Commentary: "Ruffling feathers and making an impact: Oxfam’s campaign for poultry workers’ rights"

Author: Robbie Silverman, Oxfam America

Over the last two years, Oxfam has partnered with over a dozen organizations to advocate for poultry workers. We’ve been working with civil rights organizations, unions, workers’ rights groups, and worker centers in poultry-producing states. We’ve collaborated on raising awareness about the poultry industry, and are now pushing consumers, policy makers, and the poultry industry to make positive changes for the workers.  We are targeting the top four poultry companies to lead the way and improve conditions for their workforce—Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms. Together, these four companies control 60 percent of the chicken market in the US, employ more than 100,000 line workers, and sell hundreds of products that are in every top retail store, restaurant chain, and food service line. Here’s how we’re doing it [see full details in blog]...And the great news is that we are already seeing signs of progress [see details in full blog].

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Article
24 November 2015

Full report: "Lives on the Line"

Author: Oxfam America

Chicken is the most popular meat in America , and the poultry industry is booming. Profits are climbing, consumer demand is growing, and executive compensation is increasing rapidly.But one element remains trapped at the bottom: the workers on the poultry processing line. Poultry workers 1) earn low wages of diminishing value, 2) suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, and 3) often experience a climate of fear in the workplace.These problems affect the entire industry, but the top four chicken companies control roughly 60 percent of the domestic market: Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms. As industry leaders, these companies can and should implement changes that will improve conditions for poultry workers across the country.The full report explores industry history and trends in consumption, documents the realities and challenges of life working on the line, and offers concrete recommendations to improve conditions.The immersive website, Lives on the Line, uses multimedia to convey the experiences of workers inside the poultry plant.

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Company non-response
24 November 2015

Pilgrim's Pride did not respond

Author: Pilgrim's Pride

Company non-response
24 November 2015

Sanderson Farms did not respond

Author: Sanderson Farms

Company response
23 November 2015

Perdue Farms' response

Author: Perdue Farms

We find it curious that Oxfam has included Perdue in their campaign when we have been a leader in worker safety and associate health and wellness programs.  As one of the major employers in many of our communities, we recognize our responsibility to provide a safe, productive and rewarding workplace. We provide competitive wages, including hourly production pay rates significantly above minimum wage, and paid time off earned according to hours worked and seniority. We offer comprehensive benefits with options for medical, dental and vision coverage; life and disability insurance options and a competitive 401(k) savings plan with matching contributions, along with medical and dependent care pre-tax flexible spending accounts...

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Item
23 November 2015

Tyson Foods' response

Author: Tyson Foods

Like Oxfam America, we believe in fair compensation, a safe and healthy work environment and in providing workers with a voice. That’s why our company already does many of the things Oxfam is recommending...

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