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March 1st: Macy’s Union Contract Meeting

What do you want in your next union contract at Macy’s?

As we prepare to negotiate a new union contract at Macy’s, we need your help to shape our strategy and prioritize our goals for negotiations. Your input will help us put together proposals well in advance of the actual contract negotiations and help us fight hardest for the things you and your coworkers want most.

Macy’s Contract Meeting

Thursday, March 1, 2018
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

UFCW Local 400 Headquarters
8400 Corporate Drive, Landover, MD 20785

 

Print the Flier (PDF)

District’s Largest Retail Union Condemns Prosecution of Inauguration Protesters

On Tuesday, January 16th, the executive board of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 passed an official resolution condemning the “arbitrary, overbroad detention and arrest of hundreds of citizens exercising their right to free speech” during the presidential inauguration on January 20, 2017.

During the presidential inauguration last year, more than 200 individuals – including journalists, street medics, legal observers, as well as demonstrators – were surrounded and trapped by police, arrested and charged with the same six felonies and two misdemeanors, with a maximum penalty of up to 60 years in prison.

Over the course of the year, defendants have slogged through months of court dates and legal procedures. In the opening trial against the first group of defendants, which included an independent journalist covering the events that day, prosecutors admitted to having no evidence against any of the individuals but proceeded with the case anyway. A jury found all six defendants not guilty on all charges last month.

Yesterday, prosecutors announced plans to dismiss all charges against 129 defendants, but 59 people are still being charged with a number of felonies and face up to 70 years in prison.

“Several of our members were participating in protests that day, and it is only a matter of happenstance that they were not rounded up, thrown in jail and charged with felonies along with hundreds of others – simply for being there,” explained UFCW Local 400 President Mark Federici. “While we are pleased that the Justice Department has chosen to dismiss charges against 159 of the defendants, the truth is, they should never have been arrested in the first place. Rounding up people and forcing them through months of legal headaches simply for being in the proximity of a protest is a clear violation of every citizen’s right to free speech.”

The resolution acknowledges the central role that protest and freedom of speech has held throughout the history of the labor movement. It further states that Local 400 “stands in solidarity with all protesters who face excessive and undue criminal charges.”

The resolution was approved by a majority vote of the executive board at a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. Local 400 has more than 3,500 members who live and work in Washington, D.C., where the protests occurred.

The full text of the resolution is below:

UFCW Local 400 Resolution in Support of Inauguration Protesters

WHEREAS, more than 3,500 United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 members live and work in the District of Columbia;

WHEREAS, we are proud that our membership reflects the broad diversity of political ideas and opinions of the nation’s capital and our great nation;

WHEREAS, the United States was founded by the courageous actions of political dissidents;

WHEREAS, the right to free speech and free expression of ideas is enshrined in the first amendment of the Constitution;

WHEREAS, the darkest periods of American history are characterized by the persecution of political dissidents by the wealthy and powerful;

WHEREAS, the labor movement was formed by workers bravely exercising their constitutionally protected right to free speech;

WHEREAS, members of UFCW Local 400 at times participate in protests and other exercises of their right to free speech, including at the presidential inauguration;

WHEREAS, on January 20, 2017, when tens of thousands of citizens gathered in our nation’s capital to exercise their first amendment right to protest the inauguration of President Trump, a crowd of more than 200 individuals – including journalists, medics, and bystanders – were rounded up without warning and mass arrested without individuated probable cause;

WHEREAS, 190 of those arrested are now facing outrageously inappropriate and draconian multiple felony charges and up to 61 years of prison time for exercising their first amendment rights, and such reprisals constitute a dangerous chilling effect on the right to speak out and all forms of free expression;

THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that UFCW Local 400 wholeheartedly condemns the arbitrary, overbroad detention and arrest of hundreds of citizens exercising their right to free speech while protesting the Presidential Inauguration;

LET IT FURTHER BE RESOLVED, that UFCW Local 400 stands in solidarity with all protesters who face excessive and undue criminal charges, and calls for the dismissal and/or reduction of all charges brought against them by federal prosecutors.

Maryland Paid Sick Days Law Takes Effect February 11

A team of five Local 400 members played a pivotal role in winning passage of the Healthy Working Families Act in Maryland.

In a resounding victory for Maryland’s working families, the House of Delegates and Senate voted to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of the Healthy Working Families Act, making it the law of the state.

As a result, workers at Maryland employers with 15 or more employees will earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to five full days per year. Workers will begin accruing sick leave on Sunday, February 11, once the new law takes effect 30 days after the veto override vote.

“This is a huge win for Local 400 and all Maryland working families,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “No one should have to choose between a paycheck and their health or the well-being of a family member. Thanks to every state senator and delegate who voted to override the governor’s misguided veto, paid leave is now a right in Maryland.

“Local 400 members and activists—including five who lobbied full-time—deserve the lion’s share of credit for this great advance in workers’ rights, along with our allies in the Working Matters coalition.” Federici said.  “This shows the power of collective action to make a profound difference in the lives of hardworking Marylanders.”

The House voted to override the veto by an 88-52 margin on January 11th and the Senate voted 30-17 the following day. The Healthy Working Families Act had been passed by the General Assembly in the 2017 legislative session, but Hogan vetoed the bill after the legislative session ended last year. The override votes were among the very first acts of the 2018 legislative session.

In addition to guaranteeing paid time and providing greater income stability for Maryland workers, the new law will:

  • Enable the thousands of working Marylanders who are underemployed and piecing together part-time jobs to receive earned sick days.
  • Allow victims of domestic violence or abuse to earn “safe time” in order to obtain medical attention, victims services, counseling, relocation or legal services that will keep their families safe.
  • Support healthy workplace policies for Maryland businesses and enable employers with existing earned sick leave standards to maintain those policies as long as they comply with the minimum regulations of the law.

This advance follows Local 400’s success in winning paid leave laws in Montgomery County, Md., and the District of Columbia.

The Next Battle: $15 Minimum Wage

The next big battle for Local 400, the Maryland labor movement and our community allies is to pass a $15/hour statewide minimum wage bill in this current legislative session. As with paid leave, Montgomery County and Washington, D.C. have passed $15/hour minimum wage laws, and the goal is to extend this needed rise in living standards to all Marylanders.

“We’ve seen in recent negotiations how higher minimum wage laws have helped us gain contracts with needed pay increases,” Federici said. “Putting the entire state of Maryland on a path to a $15/hour minimum wage will further increase our power at the bargaining table in future negotiations.

“In a high-cost state like Maryland, an hourly wage below $15 just isn’t good enough,” he added. “Anyone who works full-time should be able to earn a living you can raise a family on. That’s why I urge our Maryland members to contact their state delegates and senators and demand that they pass a $15 statewide minimum wage this year.”

To contact your Maryland state legislators, please call the General Assembly’s toll-free number at (800) 492-7122.

January 14: CVS Contract Meeting

Photo via Flickr

What do you want in your next union contract?

In the coming weeks, we will begin negotiating our next union contract with CVS. But first we need to hear from you!

Join us for a union contract meeting on Sunday, January 14 to help us to shape our strategy and prioritize our goals for contract negotiations. Your input will help us put together proposals well in advance of the actual contract negotiations, and it will help us fight hardest for the things you and your coworkers want most.

CVS Contract Meeting – Sunday, January 14, 2018
7:00 p.m.
UFCW Local 400 Headquarters
8400 Corporate Drive, Landover, MD 20785
Please note: We’ll be meeting in the first floor meeting room. Please enter through the door at the rear of the building.

Please plan to attend this important contract meeting. You should receive a card in the mail inviting you to the meetings. We need to hear what YOU want to see in your upcoming contract, so make sure to be there!

2017: A Year In Review

No matter how you look at the past year, 2017 has been one for the history books. Here at Local 400, were celebrating some major successes. As we look forward to 2018, heres a quick trip through some of the highlights in 2017.

 

Negotiating Better Contracts

A team of Kroger store associates led negotiations for the new contract on behalf of UFCW Local 400.

Local 400 Members Ratify New Contract With Zero Cuts

We all know it is extremely rare in this day and age to win a contract without losing a single benefit. Even at a time when other retailers are slashing benefits, we didn’t give up a single thing in our latest Kroger contract in West Virginia. We successfully preserved our healthcare and retirement benefits while also increasing pay. And it couldn’t have happened without you.

Shoppers Members Unanimously Ratify New Contract

Local 400 members working at Shoppers unanimously ratified a new, three-year collective bargaining agreement that puts more money in their pockets faster, and fully maintains their health and retirement security.

Lipton Tea Workers Vote Overwhelmingly to Ratify First Union Contract

Workers from the nation’s only Lipton tea plant voted overwhelmingly to approve their first union contract. This represents the first time in the history of the plant when workers were given the opportunity to vote on the terms and conditions of their employment.

 

Political Victories

 

Members of the Montgomery County Council were joined by County Executive Ike Leggett at a ceremony on Monday, November 13 where a $15 minimum wage was signed into law.

Montgomery County Passes $15 Minimum Wage

After years of campaigning by Local 400 and our allies, Montgomery County, Md. passed legislation to raise the wage to $15 per hour for businesses employing 51 or more workers by 2021, for businesses employing 11-50 employees by 2023, and for businesses employing 10 and fewer employees by 2024. After it reaches $15/hour, the bill requires the minimum wage to be indexed to inflation, so wages will continue to rise without having to work to pass a new bill every few years!

UFCW Focuses on Worker Safety & Immigration in Meatpacking Industry

The USDA, which regulates meat and poultry processing, is currently considering a petition by the National Chicken Council to eliminate the current line speed limit of 140 birds per minute. UFCW is fighting back, lobbying Congress to undo Trump administration policies, advising immigrant members about how to protect themselves, and mobilizing public opinion against the cruel impact of immigration raids.

Four Candidates Recommended by Local 400 Win Elections in Virginia
Four of the candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates who were endorsed by Local 400 won their races, including: Elizabeth Guzman (House District 31), Hala Ayala (District 51), Karrie Delaney (District 67), and Jeion Joyner Ward (District 92).

Local 400 members and staff pause for a photo on the steps of the U.S. Capitol as part of the first-ever Local 400 Lobby Day on March 23, 2017.

Local 400 Members Speak Out on Capitol Hill

In March, more than 35 members of Local 400 descended on Capitol Hill to meet with their senators and representatives in congress as part of our first-ever lobby day. The members had three central messages for the senators and representatives they met with: oppose national “right to work” legislation, oppose Trumpcare, and oppose immigration raids in our workplaces.

New Law Guarantees Eight Weeks of Paid Leave for New Parents in D.C.

In a landmark victory for workers in the nation’s capital, the District of Columbia has enacted universal paid leave legislation, providing one of the nation’s most progressive packages of family and medical leave benefits. Starting in 2020, D.C. workers can take up to two weeks of paid sick leave, six weeks paid time off to care for sick loved ones and eight weeks of paid time off for new parents.

Montgomery County Members Now Eligible for Paid Sick Days

Thanks to the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2015, a new law championed by UFCW Local 400 and our allies, if you work in Montgomery County, you can take paid time off if you or a loved one get sick. As a Local 400 member working at Giant or Safeway in Montgomery County, you earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours you work, and you can earn up to 56 hours a year.

 

Member Spotlights

Kristy Vance, a shop steward at Kroger #402, poses for a photo with her coworker, Alex Taylor. Alex was awarded $250 in back pay after Kristy reported a manager doing work that should have been assigned to Alex.

Kroger Shop Steward Wins $250 in Back Pay for Coworker

For years now, Kristy Vance has seen managers, management trainees and loss prevention staff stocking shelves at her store. This not only violates the Kroger-Roanoke contract, which specifies that only bargaining unit members can stock shelves, but it also reduces the number of hours Local 400 members are scheduled to work. So Kristy started taking photos and documented 24 hours of management doing shelf-stocking. The result of her efforts? The company could not dispute what happened and Local 400 won $250 in back pay for part-time associate Alex Taylor, covering the extra hours he should have been assigned.

Kroger Shop Steward Wins Back Pay for Local 400 Members

As shop steward and florist at Kroger #326, Nicole Boyd was tired of seeing managers doing work that was supposed to be assigned to her coworkers. She too took photos every time she saw a manager stocking shelves and earned back pay for several of her coworkers.

Kroger Shop Steward Wins Promotions, Raises for 10 Members

Courtesy clerks are only responsible for a limited set of duties, however if a courtesy clerk is assigned work above and beyond their normal duties, he or she is supposed to get paid more for doing that work. But when Kroger-Roanoke member, Drema Trent, saw clerks working the cash registers at her Kroger store, she decided to do something about it. Her documentation resulted in ten courtesy clerks promoted to front-end clerks and given raises.

Shop Stewards Save Members from Dust Exposure

With management only looking at the bottom line, it’s up to us to bring the issues of workplace safety up and demand action. That’s exactly what a team of shop stewards as DanChem Technologies did through their employee-driven safety program.

“Sign-Up” Queen Retires

Laurette Ford is a force of nature. For more than a decade as a Local 400 shop steward, she made it her mission to build her union by signing up as many new members as humanly possible. And she succeeded brilliantly.

Members Lead Fight for Maryland Earned Sick Leave Bill

Local 400 Shop Stewards Darlene Butler-Jones and Bill Osborn had never gone to Annapolis to meet with their state legislators, testified before the Maryland General Assembly or spoken out at rallies before. So when they were asked to help lead Local 400’s campaign to pass the Healthy Working Families Act, they were a bit taken aback. But after four months of working full-time to make paid leave a right for all Maryland workers, they were fired up and thrilled with the results — the passing of the legislation!

UFCW Members Make Safety A Priority at Tyson Poultry Plant

Local 400 members and Tyson management instituted reform to allow any worker to halt the entire production line if he or she witnesses a safety hazard. This reform gave shop steward Aleta Johnsons the opportunity to assist her co-worker and avoid injury.

Local 400 Nurse Retires After More Than 50 Years

Joyce Graham says, “I like to be where the action is.” If anything, that’s an understatement. But it goes a long way toward explaining why she has kept working as a nurse at Kaiser Permanente into her late 70s, and only retired this May.

Local 400 Member’s Son Hits the Big Time: Performs on “The Voice” April 17th!

Though he didn’t win the whole show, it was exciting to see “one of our own” share his talent live on television. The son of Local 400 member and representative Kenny Pinkard, who works for Omega Protein, TSoul’s journey has been shaped by his father’s dedication to union activism and changing his community for the better.

Local 400 Member Presented with National Nursing Award

For 18 years, Isolina (“Izzy”) Pistolessi has worked as a nurse at Kaiser’s Falls Church Care Center and this year she was presented with Kaiser’s National Extraordinary Nurse Award. This is a rare honor, and she is only the second nurse from Kaiser’s Mid-Atlantic Region to receive this recognition. She was flown to California in May to accept her award.

Member Spotlight: John Ruiz Is a Force for Solidarity

John Ruiz believes in solidarity with every fiber of his being. During our recent contract negotiations with Safeway and Giant, Safeway workers reached a tentative agreement, but Giant workers faced a looming strike vote. John took action immediately to show he and his co-workers at Safeway would stand in solidarity with their fellow union members at Giant.

Workers at the nation’s only Lipton Tea factory wore “No Forced Overtime” stickers while negotiating their first union contract with Lipton.

Anita Anderson: Organizing for a Better Life

A pivotal moment in the Lipton tea organizing campaign was when Anita and her co-workers spoke by telephone with Chicago Hellman’s workers, who are members of UFCW. Hellman’s and Lipton are both owned by Unilever, an international conglomerate. “We got to ask about their pay, benefits and working conditions. And we learned that what they have is much better than what we’ve gotten until now. As soon as we showed our co-workers the difference, cards started coming in left and right.”

Taralyn Pike Brings Happiness to the Workplace

In her five years working at Giant, Taralyn Pike loved what her union did for her, but grew frustrated by what she saw as “a great deal of unhappiness at my store.” So she decided to do something about it — she stepped up to become not only a shop steward but also an activist mobilizing members around contract talks.

Jibril Wallace: Fighting for Paid Leave

Jibril Wallace has been working at the same Safeway in Washington, D.C. for 28 years, since she was a teenager helping her mother pay the bills. Through the years, she had no paid sick days. She understands first-hand what it’s like not to have those days to tend to yourself, your kids, or other family members — so she took a stand.

Victory! All Courtesy Clerks Promoted at Kroger Store in Lynchburg

Member activism and the hard work of Local 400 shop steward Mary Little won a landmark victory at a Kroger store — all courtesy clerks were promoted to front end clerks, gaining raises, benefits, holiday pay and paid vacations in the process.

December 7: Contract Meetings for Bethesda Co-op & Trio Healthcare

On Thursday, December 7, Local 400 will be hosting contract meetings for members working at Bethesda Co-op in Cabin John, Md. and two Trio Healthcare facilities, Elizabeth Adam Crump and Elizabeth House in Glen Allen, Va.

As a Local 400 union member, you have the opportunity to get answers to your questions and vote on your next contract. Make a plan to attend these important contract meetings.

 

Bethesda Co-op Contract Meeting

DATE:
Thursday, December 7, 2017

TIME:
9:30 p.m.

PLACE:
Bethesda Co-op, 6500 Seven Locks Road Cabin John, MD 20818

 

Elizabeth Adam Crump Contract Meeting

DATE:
Thursday, December 7, 2017

TIMES:
7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

PLACE:
Auditorium at Elizabeth Adam Crump

 

Elizabeth House Contract Meeting

DATE:
Thursday, December 7, 2017

TIMES:
8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

PLACE:
Auditorium at Elizabeth Adam Crump

Local 400 Endorses Donna Edwards for Prince George’s County Executive

Local 400 joins three other local labor unions to endorse former Congresswoman

Today, a coalition of four labor unions jointly announced their endorsement of former Congresswoman Donna Edwards for Prince George’s County Executive, including UFCW Local 400, UNITE HERE Local 25, LIUNA Mid-Atlantic, and UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO. Together, the organizations represent more than 10,000 workers in the county.

“We are proud to once again lend our support to Donna Edwards,” said UFCW Local 400 President Mark Federici. “Donna stays true to her progressive values, even when the odds are stacked against her. These days, Donna is just the kind of champion we need. In Congress, she consistently fought to bring better opportunities to working families. But beyond fighting for strong policies, Donna understands the importance of bringing every aspect of the community together to get things done. As executive, we know she will bring much-needed opportunities to the hardworking men and women of Prince George’s County.”

“The members of UNITE HERE Local 25 proudly endorse Donna Edwards,” said Linda Martin, President of UNITE HERE Local 25. “As hotel workers, our priority is to ensure that our next County Executive is a true champion of working people, and there is no better champion than Donna. She stood with Local 25 members when we organized at the Gaylord hotel in National Harbor, and her unblemished record of supporting unions and progressive policies is exactly what Prince George’s County needs as we look to the future. Local 25 understands that for Prince George’s County to fulfill its potential, we need a County Executive with a fresh vision who puts people before special interests and developers. Donna is that person.”

“She has remained a champion for working people throughout her career,” said Dennis Martire, Vice President and Regional Manager of LiUNA Mid-Atlantic. “She fights for working families every day, and that is why LiUNA proudly stands with Donna Edwards.”

“Donna Edwards has defended our community as a member of Congress, an organizer and a non-profit leader,” said Gino Renne, President of UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO. “It is because of Donna’s fearless integrity that she will bring our community together to ensure government is transparent and accountable to the people and ensures that our economy benefits Prince George’s working families.”

Maryland Primary Elections: Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Maryland Primary elections are on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Make a plan to vote on Tuesday, June 26, 2018.

Not registered to vote in Maryland? Click here to register online through the Maryland State Board of Elections website.

How Candidates Are  Recommended

Local 400 recommends candidates for office only after an exhaustive process of getting to know them, analyzing their records, and reviewing their positions on issues impacting our members’ lives. These issues include jobs, the economy, workers’ rights, health care, retirement security, workers’ compensation and education. We recommend those candidates judged to have your best interests in mind.

In order to decide on a candidate to endorse, we:

  1. Review the voting records of incumbents on labor issues.
  2. Participate in the AFL-CIO interview process and schedule one-on-one interviews between Local 400 and many of the candidates.
  3. Discuss with other union members and leaders the interviews and the written questionnaires candidates submit.
  4. Make recommendations to the executive boards of the relevant area labor councils.
  5. Participate in state AFL-CIO meetings, where delegates from Local 400 and other unions vote to give labor’s recommendation to a limited number of candidates.
  6. After acceptance, these recommendations are communicated to Local 400 members.

UFCW Focuses on Worker Safety & Immigration in Meatpacking Industry

 

For Local 400 representative Misty Wrenn, it was an eye-opening, powerful experience.

Having once worked for five years at the Smithfield pork plant in Smithfield, Va., Misty knew first-hand how tough conditions could be inside the facilities where animals are slaughtered, and meat is cut, processed and packaged. But what she heard from her sisters and brothers at the recent UFCW Meatpacking and Food Processing Chain Conference in Omaha was still shocking.

“What really got me is that now, the poultry companies want to speed up their lines to the point where they’re processing 175 birds a minute,” Misty said. “That’s insane. There is no way you can be doing this. I can’t imagine working like that.

“It just isn’t right, no one can do that much,” she noted. “How many workers will hurt themselves, lose a finger, or get carpal tunnel?”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which regulates meat and poultry processing, is currently considering a petition by the National Chicken Council to eliminate the current line speed limit of 140 birds per minute. This not only threatens worker health—it threatens consumer health, too. As retired USDA food safety inspector Phyllis McKelvey told National Public Radio, “These machines will pull the viscera, which is the guts of the chicken. And a lot of times the guts hang on their prongs and those machines just get covered up in guts, which is slinging manure all over the product.”

Click here to learn more about how increasing poultry line speeds could make jobs more dangerous and chicken unsafe to eat.

Misty was also deeply moved by Conference attendees’ stories about the Trump Administration’s changes in immigration policy. Meat and poultry processing plants will be directly impacted by this because they employ a high proportion of immigrants.

“It really tore me up to hear about how so many immigrants are exploited, harassed and mistreated, and now are at risk of being sent back to countries where they haven’t lived in years, even decades,” she said.

“They have families here; what’s going to happen to their kids if they’re sent back?” Misty asked. “The repeal of DACA is threatening young people who have lived in the U.S. since they were little children and have no memory of the country they were born in. There are deportations. And people from Haiti, Nicaragua and Honduras are about to have their visas revoked next year. This is really sad.”

Again, the UFCW is fighting back, lobbying Congress to undo Trump administration policies, advising immigrant members about how to protect themselves, and mobilizing public opinion against the cruel impact of immigration raids.

“Immigrants are used by greedy employers for their own selfish reasons,” Misty said. “And the more crackdowns there are, the more immigrants will be driven into an underground economy, where they’re paid even less and have no rights at all. And that, in turn, will drive down wages for all workers.

“I’m proud UFCW is leading the fight for processing plant workers, for immigrants, and for all workers,” she added. “We’re helping people and saving jobs, and that’s why Local 400 is here.”

How Increasing Poultry Line Speeds Could Make Chicken Unsafe to Eat

Oxfam estimates that each person eats 89 pounds of chicken a year – which means as a country, we’re eating close to 9 billion birds per year. It’s a major, multi-billion dollar industry that supplies us with chicken nuggets, wings, and the foundation for so many of our favorite, home-cooked meals.

It’s easy to cook, it’s affordable, and a mainstay in the meals American families share with one another.

But jobs inside poultry plants are some of the most dangerous and difficult in America. The National Chicken Council, which is the poultry industry’s main trade association and functions to represent its interests to Congress and other federal agencies, wants to do away with a key protection to keep workers safe on the job: line speeds.

Three Things You Should Know About Poultry Line Speeds

1.) By law, most poultry plants can run their processing lines at 140 birds per minute. That’s already insanely fast.

Federal law currently sets the line speed maximum at 140 birds per minute at most poultry facilities. To give you a sense of what that translates to in real life, that’s just a hair faster than the tempo for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” except where each beat is a chicken.

On the line itself, one employee can process more than 14,000 chickens each day. Depending on the job, each worker can process around 35-45 birds per minute – which rounds out to about 2,000 chickens per hour or nearly one chicken every two seconds.

Some plants are even allowed to operate at 175 BPM (for background on why some plants are allowed to be faster than others and for more examples of songs that match different line speeds, check out this great article from The New Food Economy). There are few things that we do each and every day that can even compare to that level of repetition.

2.) As line speed increases, safety decreases. And they want to eliminate line speeds entirely.

While there’s currently a speed limit in poultry plants, the National Chicken Council wants to eliminate them entirely.

As line speeds increase, so does the risk of injury—including serious and bloody cuts and amputations.

But faster line speeds also mean less time for federal meat inspectors and quality control workers to do their jobs and ensure the chicken you’re eating is safe to consume.

Want a better idea how fast poultry lines could move if they eliminate line speed limits? Here’s what 200 BMP sounds like, which is how fast Germany already allows their plants to run (with negative side effects, as explained in #3):

3.) Faster line speed also means inspectors have less time to watch out for food safety issues. That should make anyone feel queasy. 

If current line speeds are eliminated, federal inspectors who are tasked with spotting contaminated birds may be forced to examine more than two per second for abscesses, tumors, or other diseases.

The National Chicken Council argues that increased line speeds will help modernize the system, and keep up with international competitors.

But countries which allow faster line speeds have more issues with food safety. Germany allows line speeds up to 200 BPM and their poultry meat is found to have higher levels of Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination.

Retired USDA food safety inspector Phyllis McKelvey spoke out about the dangers of increasing line speed in an interview with NPR earlier this year:

“These machines will pull the viscera, which is the guts of the chicken. And a lot of times the guts hang on their prongs and those machines just get covered up in guts, which is slinging manure all over the product,” she says.

In the live hang section, McKelvey said equipment failures would also occur in the stun bath, where birds are shocked with electricity. That would send fully conscious birds to a machine that would sever their necks.

“If the line is going too fast you have a lot of birds that don’t get stunned,” she says. “So you’ve got some birds going into the scald vats, alive.”

The USDA describes the new inspection system as more science-based in that it requires that all poultry facilities perform their own microbiological testing along with two federal inspectors. This leaves one inspector to view the carcasses.

But with fewer inspectors, McKelvey argues, plants are relying on more chemicals like peracetic acid or food bleach to reduce the chance of food contamination.

“And if they don’t have a proper air system, these chemicals are causing people to sneeze and cough. And even at that rate it gets so bad we’d have to shut the line down,” McKelvey says.

Here’s how you can take action to keep poultry workers safe on the job and chicken safe on your plate:

The USDA is currently accepting public comments on increasing line speed limits in poultry plants. Click here to submit your comment by December 13 and tell them we deserve safe food, and America’s poultry workers deserve safe workplaces. Tell the USDA today and to reject the National Chicken Council’s petition and keep safe line speed limits in poultry plants.

Originally posted on UFCW.org