WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act, that would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prevent pork and poultry slaughter line speed increases and suspend all line speed waivers for the duration of the pandemic. Public Citizen has sued the department over these dangerous line speeds. Juley Fulcher, worker health and safety advocate at Public Citizen, released the following statement in support of the bill:
“Meat and poultry processing plants across the nation have been hotbeds of coronavirus infection, leading to the contagion of more than 57,000 meatpacking workers and more than 280 deaths. The Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act is vital to protecting these essential workers who keep our food supply chain running.
“Meat and poultry plants with excessive line speeds force workers to stand shoulder to shoulder, increasing the risk of transmission of the deadly coronavirus. Despite the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommending that line speeds be slowed down, the USDA not only refused to act, but granted waivers to 15 large poultry plants allowing them to increase their line speeds 25% beyond the regulatory limit after the onset of the pandemic. Poultry plants with line speed waivers are 10 times more likely to have coronavirus infections.
“Increased line speeds not only put poultry and meatpacking workers at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, but also increase their risk of other injuries, like carpel tunnel syndrome, lacerations, crushed hands, fractures and finger amputations. This bill would prevent already high injury rates from going even higher while also protecting workers from coronavirus.”