Red Meat Processors Sued over Wages

Nov. 22, 2022
Three workers claim pork and beef processors conspired to cheat them and are seeking class-action certification.

America’s largest processors of red meat are being sued over allegations that they conspired for years to depress worker wages.

A lawsuit filed Nov. 11 in federal court in Denver charges JBS USA, Cargill, Hormel Foods, American Foods Group, National Beef Packing and others with wage-fixing. The defendants collectively process about 80% of the U.S. beef and pork supply, according to the lawsuit.

It was filed on behalf of three meat plant workers, two in Iowa and one in Georgia, but the plaintiffs will seek class-action status. Their law firm, Hagens Berman, is trolling for more plaintiffs to add to the class action, seeking anyone who has worked in any of the defendants’ approximately 140 plants since January 2014.

The suit claims that the meat processing companies violated antitrust laws by holding secret meetings to talk about wage rates. It also names as defendants two consulting firms that allegedly helped the companies exchange information about wages.

“Our firm has secured $195 million in the poultry processing industry for the same antitrust behavior,” Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Herman, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “The meat industry’s gravy train ends here.”

About the Author

Pan Demetrakakes | Senior Editor

Pan has written about the food and beverage industry for more than 25 years. His areas of coverage have included formulations, processing, packaging, marketing and retailing. Pan worked for Food Processing Magazine for six years in the 1990s, where he was operations editor (his current role), touring dozens of food plants of every description. He has also worked for Packaging and Food & Beverage Packaging magazines, the latter as chief editor, during which he won three ASBPE awards. He is a graduate of Stanford University with a BA in communications.

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