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Poultry is big business in Alabama. The industry accounts for more than $2 million and more than 80,000 jobs.
A new report by the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and the Southern Poverty Law Center employees at some of the 25 processing plants across the state are overworked, injured and intimidated.
Tom Fritzsche SPLC staff attorney spoke with Fox6 News reporter Ronda Robinson about the report.
"It's based on interviews with over 300 current and former poultry workers all over the state of Alabama talking about working conditions, health and safety issues, safety equipment, sexual harrassment and a number of other things," Fritzsche said.
Seventy-nine percent of the respondents said they "are not allowed to take bathroom breaks when needed." Some workers chose to urinate on themselves rather than ask to leave the line.
This survey also found that "17 percent of workers...suffered a cut serious enough to require some medical attention. company nurses often just gave workers Band-aids...and sent them back to the processing line."
Former poultry plant worker Natashia Ford remembers deplorable conditions.
"The chicken juice slashing on face, in ears and mouth because you don't have proper mask. Sometimes the chicken would fall off the line on the floor. All they do is rehang them and do it all over again," Ford recalled.
Reporter Ronda Robinson asked, "You didn't wash them off or anything?"
"Sometimes we did. sometimes we didn't," Ford replied.
According to the report, "OSHA, which regulates the health and safety of workers in this country, has no set of mandatory guidelines tailored to protect poultry processing workers."
OSHA spokesperson Michael D'aquino responded with this statement:
"OSHA has regulations to protect workers in poultry plants from hazards such as amputations, slips, falls, knife cuts, hazardous chemicals in the plants (ammonia , chlorine, etc,) locked doors--doors cannot prevent exit, and OSHA has the general duty clause that says an employer has a responsibility to provide a workplace free of recognized serious hazards. Clearly, the faster the pace workers have to do their jobs, the higher the risk for injury."
As for Natashia Ford, she says keeping up the pace on the processing line got to be too much for her.
"I had to be carried off the line because my body shut down and I was unable to move."
The report suggests that the state enact a poultry workers bill of rights. It also asks that OSHA regulate line speeds and the number of birds per minute each worker may be required to process.
According to this report, workers process about 140 birds per minute and that may soon be increased to 175 birds per minute.