Congress enacted the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) in 1906, in response to widespread concerns about conditions in America’s meatpacking plants, and the resulting effects on consumer and worker safety. In October 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a rule under the FMIA that radically changed the inspection regime for pork slaughter facilities, reducing by 40 percent the number of federally employed inspectors, replacing them with plant employees, and eliminating maximum line speeds. In doing so, USDA refused to consider the impacts these changes would have on workers, ignoring evidence showing that increased line-speed rates increase the risk of injury to meatpacking workers.
Public Citizen filed a lawsuit against USDA on behalf of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents the majority of pork slaughter workers in the U.S., and three of its locals. The suit alleges that USDA, by failing to consider the harms of its actions to workers and by contradicting the FMIA’s requirement that federal inspectors perform a critical appraisal of every animal carcass, violated engaged in arbitrary and capricious decision-making in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.