A new Oxfam America report has revealed some deeply disturbing information about the working conditions for workers at Tyson Foods.
The “No Relief: Denial of Bathroom Breaks in the Poultry Industry” report, exposes how workers are routinely denied bathroom breaks, and calls for the company to change its ways.
by Isabelle Z.
The report was compiled after interviewing employees of Tyson Foods and other poultry producers such as Perdue Farms, Sanderson Farms and Pilgrim’s Pride.
The researchers discovered that workers were often met with ridicule or even punishment after asking to take a toilet break.
The situation is so dire that some workers said they had to urinate or defecate on themselves right where they stood, while others simply went without food and drink to avoid potentially losing their jobs over going to the bathroom. Many workers have even starting wearing diapers to work.
The supervisors are allegedly under pressure to meet speed and production requirements on the processing line, leading them to make workers wait hours to use the bathroom for just a few minutes, or denying them bathroom breaks altogether.
Some workers who were “lucky” enough to be given permission to use the bathroom report being given a mere ten minutes to leave their post, remove their gear, make use of the facilities, put their gear back on, and then return back to their positions.
Workers’ health disregarded
Besides the basic lack of dignity associated with wetting oneself or wearing diapers as an adult, “holding it in” can be uncomfortable and downright painful.
Women in particular tend to suffer from the lack of bathroom breaks, as they need to contend with issues such as menstruation and pregnancy. In addition, not using the restroom when the need arises places them at a greater risk of suffering from infections.
The report also sheds some light on another disturbing fact about Tyson chicken:
“To add to the risk, studies show that poultry workers in many plants may absorb so many antibiotics from handling chicken flesh that they build a resistance to antibiotics, which can make it difficult to treat infections.”
One worker at an Alabama plant said that supervisors regularly granted permission with a caveat: “Go to the bathroom, and from there, go to Human Resources.”
Denying workers bathroom breaks is a violation of workplace safety laws, and could even be considered a violation of anti-discrimination laws.
The firms in question have been quick to issue denials, with Tyson saying the company does “not tolerate the refusal of requests to use the restroom.”
According to Oxfam America, 250,000 American poultry workers suffer from high rates of illness and injury, low compensation, and a generally unpleasant and fear-inducing work climate.
Tyson Foods can’t seem to stay out of trouble
If you think they treat their workers poorly, they don’t treat their farmers much better. In his 2014 book The Meat Racket, author Christopher Leonard alleges that the farmers who provide meat to Tyson Foods are essentially locked into a type of contract farming that he likens to “indentured servitude,” which is difficult to break free from.
This is not the first time that Tyson has come under fire. A 2011 chemical accident at an Arkansas Tyson chicken processing plant, that sent 173 of its workers to the hospital, raised a lot of questions about the chemicals that were being used when processing their chicken.
Tyson refused to identify the chemicals, but knowing that chicken is processed with chemicals that can cause such dangerous respiratory illnesses and even death when mixed, does not sit well with many consumers.
As if all that wasn’t enough to turn people off from supporting Tyson Foods, a 2014 report by the Environment America Research and Policy Center revealed that the firm can be blamed for the majority of the toxic waste that the food industry releases, accounting for more than 18 million pounds of waste dumped into waterways each year.
The truth is, you simply don’t know what the food you buy in stores contains, unless you have access to a food testing lab like Mike Adams, the Health Ranger does.
His book Food Forensics sheds light on many of the common foods people buy, in order to help consumers make informed decisions.
People who purchase their chicken from Tyson Foods or the restaurants it supplies are supporting these poor working conditions, not to mention putting their health at risk.
Those who wish to eat chicken should seek sources that raise animals humanely on pasture-based, organic farms, and that do not process their meat with chemicals such as ammonia and chlorine.