As the way we work continues to evolve, the number of people working in ways that do not fit within traditional employer/employee frameworks is likely to grow. Yet our laws have not caught up. As the way we work continues to evolve, the number of people working in ways that do not fit within traditional employer/employee frameworks is likely to grow. Yet our laws have not caught up. Though legislation has been introduced to extend additional coverage, the leading federal employment antidiscrimination law, Title VII, does not apply to independent contractors.
Thanksgiving is an opportunity to share a meal with family and celebrate those we care about. But it’s also an opportunity to stand up for the workers who process our food, who too often work in harsh conditions with low wages and little time off to care for their families and their own well-being.
A recent report by Human Rights Watch detailed high rates of serious injury and illness among meatpacking workers, who work with dangerous equipment and toxic chemicals at breakneck line speeds that are ever-increasing. These conditions are especially hazardous for pregnant workers, many of whom are already risking their health on the job for fear of requesting reasonable accommodations.
These problems are exacerbated by the current political climate: the poultry industry frequently relies on immigrant labor, and companies are emboldened to exploit undocumented workers who are fearful to stand up for their rights at the risk of facing detention and deportation.
Unfortunately, the weeks before Thanksgiving are particularly brutal for workers who process turkey: A 2016 investigation found that Butterball plant employees were required to work 50 days straight in the lead-up to Thanksgiving.
So on Thanksgiving and year-round, let’s demand better for workers in poultry plants. We are proud to be a part of the Poultry Workers’ Rights Coalition, and we are committed to working with our partners to protect and defend the rights of all poultry workers.