Dozens Of Children Worked Slaughterhouse Graveyard Shifts According To Labor Department
A top sanitation company has been accused of employing at least 31 children to clean the killing floors of slaughterhouses during graveyard shifts – one as young as 13, according to the Department of Labor.
The company, Packers Sanitation Services, or PSSI (owned by Blackstone), is contracted to work at meatpacking facilities and slaughterhouses across the country. According to court documents filed Wednesday, the children were allegedly employed at three facilities in Nebraska and Minnesota, NBC News reports.
The company employs over 17,000 employees at more than 700 locations across the country, according to PSSI’s website.
The investigation found that minors cleaned the killing floors and various machines — including meat and bone cutting saws and a grinding machine — during the graveyard shifts, according to the complaint.
PSSI employed at least a dozen 17-year-olds across the three slaughterhouses, fourteen 16-year-olds, three 15-year-olds, one 14-year-old and one 13-year-old, the complaint said. -NBC News
According to the complaint, an Aug. 24 investigation was launched after law enforcement officials were tipped off that the company may be employing children. Search warrants were executed at two plants owned by food processor JBS USA in Grand Island, Nebraska and Worthington, Minnesota – and at a poultry processing plant in Minnesota.
If true, the practice would violate the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibits employers from “oppressive child labor,” as well as minors from working in any type of hazardous employment, reads the complaint, which asks the Federal District Court of Nebraska to issue a temporary restraining order as well as a nationwide preliminary injunction against the company to stop it from employing minors while the Labor Department investigates.
Initial evidence indicates the company may also employ more kids under similar conditions at 400 other sites across the country, in addition to the 31 minors employed at three sites that investigators already confirmed, according to the complaint.
The court partially granted the Department of Labor’s request in a Thursday filing. That order requires PSSI to “immediately cease and refrain from employing oppressive child labor” and comply with the Department of Labor’s investigation. -NBC News
According to PSSI, the company “has an absolute company-wide prohibition against the employment of anyone under the age of 18 and zero tolerance for any violation of that policy —period,” with a spokesperson adding that the company mandates the use of the federal E-Verify system when it comes to new hires, “as well as extensive training, document verification, biometrics, and multiple layers of audits.”
“While rogue individuals could of course seek to engage in fraud or identity theft, we are confident in our company’s strict compliance policies and will defend ourselves vigorously against these claims.”
Company executives were reportedly “surprised” by the filing, after PSSI says it “has been cooperating with their inquiry, producing extensive documents and responses.”
Interviews with the kids — which were conducted in Spanish, their first language, according to the complaint — revealed that several children began their shifts at the facilities at 11 p.m. and worked until 5, 6 or 7 a.m. Some worked up to six or seven days a week.
School records showed that one 14-year-old, who worked at the Grand Island facility from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. five to six days a week, from December 2021 to this past April, fell asleep in class and missed school after suffering injuries from chemical burns. At least two other minors also suffered chemical burns, the complaint states. -NBC News
“While Wage and Hour is continuing to pour over records to identify such children, it is slow, painstaking work. Yet, the children working overnight on the kill floor of these slaughterhouses cannot wait,” states the complaint.
Sun, 11/13/2022 – 19:30