Over the last few years, Oxfam has partnered with a broad coalition of organizations to advocate for poultry workers. We’ve collaborated on raising awareness about the poultry industry, and are now pushing consumers, policy makers, and the poultry industry to make positive changes for the workers.
The campaign has operated on several levels, and has made significant advances:
- In April 2017, the largest poultry company in the US, Tyson Foods, announced new and expanded commitments for workers that are a win-win-win for everyone. We continue to reach out to other top companies, and invite them to work with us.
- We are educating consumers about the reality of life on the line in poultry plants and gathering thousands of signatures on a petition to the top companies. After we published the groundbreaking report Lives on the Line, we followed up with No Relief. Both enjoyed substantial coverage in media and social media outlets.
- We engage with workers at a variety of events: from rallies to convenings to conferences.
- Annually, we file shareholder resolutions with the top publicly-held companies. Each year, our resolutions gather more approval.
- We are reaching out to various agencies of the federal government and urging them to implement policies for greater oversight and stricter safety standards. We have met with Members of Congress, White House staff, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the US Department of Agriculture.
Among other positive signs of change:
- The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has produced two reports: the most recent confirmed our findings about the climate of fear inside the processing plants.
- In 2018, the USDA announced that is was denying a petition by the poultry industry to increase poultry processing line speeds.
- OSHA announced a new Regional Emphasis Program to monitor the poultry industry in southern states of the US. In their statement, they noted: “’The Regional Emphasis Program is designed to reduce employee exposure to crippling injuries, such as musculoskeletal disorders, and to ensure the industry records all occupational injuries and illnesses accurately,’ said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta.”
- Fifteen Members of Congress signed onto a letter to OSHA urging action on problems in the poultry industry.
These are important advances, with the potential to make a real difference for thousands of workers.
But there is a long way to go. Poultry companies must do more to protect the health and safety of their employees, provide fair compensation, and ensure that workers’ rights are respected. Most importantly, they must make these commitments public and measure progress openly and transparently.
Consumers have already pushed the poultry industry to improve the treatment of their chickens, reduce the use of antibiotics, and improve food safety. Now it’s time to focus on the workers who are responsible for bringing the chicken to our plates.
Poultry companies have an obligation to improve conditions for its employees. The government has the responsibility to enact and enforce greater oversight. And consumers have the power to speak out and push for changes.