Perhaps to expunge all connections between Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI) and child labor, PSSI reached an agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) to offer union representation at PSSI locations across the country, it was announced today (June 22).
“The problems we have witnessed in the industry must firmly remain a thing of the past and we believe that good, strong, union contracts are crucial to protecting all meatpacking and food processing workers,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone.
To be fair, “the problems” were not specified in the news release. But Perrone may have been referring to last fall’s revelations that PSSI had employed at least 102 children 13 to 17 years old, many of them migrants, working in 13 meat-processing facilities in eight states, according to the Dept. of Labor and Justice Dept. PSSI provides mostly overnight/third shift sanitation services to a large number of meat packers.
Some of the children worked overnight shifts, causing them to fall asleep in school or miss school entirely. They handled hazardous sanitation chemicals and cleaned equipment that included back saws, brisket saws and head splitters. Some were injured while on the job. PSSI paid $1.5 million in civil penalties earlier this year and entered into a consent decree.
“Of course, the choice to unionize is with PSSI’s hard-working employees,” Perrone continued. “Since we have entered this agreement, two of PSSI’s locations in Liberal, Kan., and Mason City, Iowa, have decided to join our union family.”
UFCW represents 1.3 million workers in grocery stores, meatpacking plants and other essential industries across North America.