Meat plant sanitation service fined $1.5M for child labor violations


Packers Santiation Services, Inc. (PSSI) was fined $1.5 million by the U.S. Department of Labor for employing at least 102 children — ages 13 to 17 — to work overnight shifts at 13 meat processing plants in eight states operated by producers such as JBS and Tyson, according to a statement from the labor department.

According to federal agency’s statement, PSSI employed the children to do hazardous work, such as cleaning “razor-sharp claws” and other equipment that poses a high safety risk. Some of the children employed worked at the facilities after attending middle and high school during the day, and many only spoke Spanish, the labor department told The Washington Post.

The labor department charged PSSI $15,138 per child, which the agency said is the maximum penalty allowed under the Fair Labor Standards Act. PSSI paid the fine, according to the federal department.

“The child labor violations in this case were systemic and reached across eight states, and clearly indicate a corporate-wide failure by Packers Sanitation Services at all levels,” said Jessica Looman, principal deputy administrator of wage and hour division at DOL, in a statement. “These children should never have been employed in meat packing plants and this can only happen when employers do not take responsibility to prevent child labor violations from occurring in the first place.”

PSSI’s spokesperson Gina Swenson said the company “has a zero-tolerance policy against employing anyone under the age of 18 and fully shares the [DOL’s] objective of ensuring full compliance,” according to a statement obtained by the Washington Post.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a probe into potential child trafficking at the slaughterhouses. The federal agency said it is not investigating the meat producers but looking to see whether outside traffickers forced the work on the children in order to reap profits.

DOL did not charge the meat companies with any wrongdoing but said 53 children were employed to clean JBS facilities in Colorado, Minnesota and Nebraska. The labor department said seven children were hired as sanitation workers at Tyson facilities in Arkansas and Tennessee, while Cargill facilities housed 27 underage workers.

Cargill spokesperson April Nelson told Food Dive that the company refutes the DOL’s charges against PSSI.

“The allegations against PSSI were not substantiated. The only PSSI employee allegedly working at a Cargill facility, who was identified by name as a minor by the Department of Labor, was investigated and proven to be an adult,” Nelson said. “Under no circumstances does Cargill tolerate underage labor and will terminate existing contracts if they are violated.”

JBS and Tyson did not respond to requests for comment at press time.

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Jervie David Montejar
A food lover who wants to try every delicious dishes around him and spread the news to everyone to try it as well. Finding the latest trends about food and restaurants around Cebu and the rest of the world :) "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first." -Ernestine Ulmer
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