Over Super Bowl weekend, Americans are expected to devour 1.42 billion chicken wings — enough to “circle the circumference of the Earth three times,” the National Chicken Council crowed.
But even a trillion wings might not be enough to put poultry industry CEOs in a party mood after a couple of tough first weeks under the new administration in Washington.
After taking office, Biden officials moved swiftly to block a signature achievement of the Chicken Council’s lobbyists: a Trump administration rule to allow poultry corporations to jack up their line speeds. Industry execs had been looking forward to increasing their profits by forcing workers to process birds at a break-neck speed of 175 per minute, up from the already high max of 140.
Worker advocates persuaded the Biden administration to halt the line speed change before it went into force, arguing that it would increase injuries and Covid-19 infections in an industry notorious for some of the country’s largest outbreaks.
United Food and Commercial Workers International President Marc Perrone said the now-scuttled rule showed Trump’s administration cared “more about corporate profits than the safety of workers.”
Debbie Berkowitz, program director for worker safety and health with the National Employment Law Project, also welcomed the Biden move. “Meat and poultry workers should not be forced by greedy employers to sacrifice their health and their lives in order to put food on our tables and bring in a paycheck,” she said.