Workers are suing over a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that allows pork processing plants to speed up production lines, something their union says could endanger employees.
The USDA rule, announced in September, would remove a cap on the speed that inspection lines can run and also reduce the number of food inspectors who look over pork products.
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which filed the suit on behalf of 30,000 pork plant workers nationwide, noted that meatpacking workers are injured more than twice the average for all private industries.
“Thousands of our members work hard every day in America’s pork plants to help families across the country put food on the table. 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. “This new rule also would dramatically weaken critical protections that Americans depend on to be able to select safe, healthy food to feed their families every day.”
The USDA rule would give plants more power in overseeing the inspection of meat. The agency said reducing the number of USDA inspectors would save them $8.7 million.
“This regulatory change allows us to ensure food safety while eliminating outdated rules and allowing for companies to innovate,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a release when the rule was announced, calling it a modernization of a 50-year-old process.
USDA did not immediately respond to request for comment.