History / Workers' Rights / Environment / Human Health / Agribusiness / Hens / Another Way

Factory Egg Farming is bad for WORKERS...

In Connecticut, Kofkoff Egg Farms, which controls 90 percent of the state's egg market, was ordered by a court, to pay 34 employees over $80,000 in back wages.  They were found to have violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying their workers minimum wage or keeping accurate payroll information.  Last year Kofkoff opposed a labor law that would have given agricultural workers more bargaining rights, as well as set up a seven-member committee to hear about labor disputes in the agricultural industry.  Their reasoning was that it would make them less competitive, i.e. they would have to pay their workers more.

Similarly Maine's Decoster Egg Farms, now Quality Egg of New England, the second largest egg farm in New England has, since May 1997, paid $2,224,625 in fines for numerous alleged egregious and willful worker health and safety violations, as well wage and hour violations.  United States Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich described the facilities there: "The conditions at this migrant farm site are as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop we have seen.  Fear and intimidation kept these workers in this unsafe, unhealthy atmosphere and living in totally unsanitary conditions...  This case is particularly abominable, because Decoster had a chance to clean up its act.  Instead, the company misled OSHA officials and made little or no effort to improve its shameful conditions."

According to an the article "The American Left Should Support Animal Rights," "In March 1992, 25 people - mostly women of color - died when a North Carolina chicken processing plant burned.  The owners of the plant had blocked the fire exits to ensure that the workers did not try to steal any chickens.  The workers and the animals died because the factory owners saw both as expendable commodities."

According to an article in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, "Airborne contaminants in poultry confinement units include the mixture of agents comprising organic poultry dust--skin debris, broken feather barbules, insect parts, aerosolized feed, and poultry excreta--and a variety of immunogenic agents, such as viable bacteria and Gram-negative bacterial endotoxins. Industrial hygiene surveys in the chicken processing industry have demonstrated that poultry confinement workers are exposed to high concentrations of such respiratory toxicants" (Morris, P. et al. Respiratory Symptoms & Pulmonary Function in Chicken Catchers in Poultry Confinement Units. Am. J. of Industrial Medicine 19:195-204, 1991. 195-196.  Cited here). 

Excretory ammonia fumes from the nitrogen in decomposing droppings damages the systems of both humans and birds (Morris; Carlile, F.S. Ammonia in Poultry Houses. World's Poultry Science Journal 40:99-113, 1984.  Cited here). 

Additionally, the workers at the slaughterhouses "spent" hens are taken to frequently develop repetitive strain injuries such as carpel tunnel syndrome.