Although chicken has become a popular food in America, poultry workers are exposed to poor working conditions. A study from Oxfam America revealed that they work for near minimum wage and have little job security, which makes them less likely to speak out about the conditions that they face. The study involved 1,000 people who have worked in the industry in addition to commentary from attorneys and medical professionals.
On average, a poultry worker makes between $20,000 and $25,000 a year, which makes some workers eligible for federal assistance programs. To make matters worse, it was discovered that workers were not always compensated for lunch breaks, and their employers were known to have engaged in wage theft. To earn their pay, workers may be required to process 140 birds per minute in working conditions featuring cold temperatures and high humidity.
Workers say that repetitive motion causes incredible shoulder and joint pain, and some have reported losing fingertips or entire fingers while working the line. Cold temperatures may enhance shoulder and joint pain that workers experience. Dust, dander and waste from the chickens may also exacerbate existing health issues. However, if a worker does report an injury, there may be no one available to adequately provide assistance, or employers may deny workers’ compensation claims saying that injuries are not work-related.
An employee who is injured on the job or becomes ill as a result of workplace conditions may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. These can include a percentage of the worker’s average take home pay as well as medical care and treatment. An attorney can often provide guidance during the process of preparing and submitting the required claim.