A food workers’ union filed a federal lawsuit Monday to block a Trump administration move to end limits on the speed of pork slaughter lines, arguing the new rule would lead to more injuries among employees and increase the risk of unsafe pork.
The suit challenges the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s move last month to eliminate maximum speed guidelines that the agency estimated would provide average annual savings of $3.78 million for large plants. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said in its complaint that the new rule ignored warnings that faster production lines at pork slaughter plants would drive up injury rates.
“Increasing pork plant line speeds not only is a reckless giveaway to giant corporations, it will put thousands of workers in harm’s way,” said Marc Perrone, president of UFCW, which was joined in the lawsuit by three of its locals and the advocacy group Public Citizen. “The safety of America’s food and workers is not for sale, and this lawsuit seeks to ensure this dangerous rule is set aside and these companies are held accountable,” he said in a statement.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said in a statement it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Meatpacking workers already suffer injuries and illnesses more than twice as often as employees in all private businesses, the lawsuit asserts, citing government occupational safety data.
The USDA estimates the regulation will allow pork-processing plants to increase production by 12.5% annually. The regulations also include a “modernized” inspection system in which meatpacking companies would be allowed to handle some of the tasks currently performed by government inspectors.
The case is United Food and Commercial Workers Union v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 19-cv-02660, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota.
–With assistance from Laurel Calkins.
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