SPRINGDALE, Ark., May 12 (UPI) -- Protesters are demanding better working conditions at Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's, and Perdue, the nation's largest poultry processors, after a civil-rights group found workers were denied bathroom breaks.
Demonstrators Wednesday delivered a petition with some 100,000 names to Tyson Foods headquarters in Springdale, Ark., following an Oxfam America report in October that found shoddy work conditions that also include increasing line speeds, no sick days and an increase risk to women while at work.
Oxfam America, a division of the international anti-poverty, hunger and injustice group, released a report citing anonymous workers that stated, "Workers struggle to cope with this denial of a basic human need. They urinate and defecate while standing on the line; they wear diapers to work; they restrict intake of liquids and fluids to dangerous degrees; they endure pain and discomfort while they worry about their health and job security."
Oxfam America said the poultry companies are violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, U.S. anti-discrimination laws and civil rights laws.
"Too many workers tell stories about urinating on themselves, or witnessing coworkers urinating on themselves. It is not only embarrassing and degrading, it's extremely uncomfortable to feel the warm urine in a frigid environment, and to have wet clothing in temperatures hovering around 40 degrees," Oxfam America said. "Then, workers are uncertain what to do; if they report what's happened, they may risk being penalized."
Hector Gonzalez, Tyson's vice president of human resources, said the company does not endorse refusing workers' requests for bathroom breaks.
"We've learned of a number of anonymous claims," Gonzalez said. "We have no evidence that they are true, but we've checked to ensure that our position on restroom breaks is being followed at all plants."
The National Chicken Council said it is "troubled by these claims but also question this group's efforts to paint the whole industry with a broad brush based on a handful of anonymous claims."
"Although individual practices vary by company, restroom breaks are planned for any production line. Most facilities also employ extra people to cover for production workers who request a bathroom break. In addition, medical-related situations are taken into account and accommodations are made," the organization said.