News

Food Worker and Food & Farm Justice Organizations Support the Introduction of the Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act of 2021 (PAMWA) 

For Immediate Release: Monday, November 22, 2021 

Media Contact:
Kara Watkins-Chow,
kara.watkinschow@berlinrosen.com

Food Worker and Food & Farm Justice Organizations Support the Introduction of the Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act of 2021 (PAMWA) 

(Nov. 22, 2021)–Today, Senator Cory Booker and Representative Ro Khanna announced the Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act of 2021 (PAMWA). Meat and poultry processing workers–a majority of whom are people of color–are vulnerable to exploitation by the handful of massive corporations dominating the industry. Workers have frequently reported being denied a living wage, prevented from taking bathroom breaks, forced to operate dangerous machinery without adequate training, and crammed together in close conditions without protective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

The Bill would provide essential protections to meatpacking workers, including limiting line speed waivers and enhancing protection from retaliation for workers who speak up about conditions. As Congress considers these protections, workers and advocates continue to organize for a stronger, more equitable and resilient food system.

Following the introduction of PAMWA, leaders of the Rural Community Workers Alliance, Venceremos, Food Chain Workers Alliance, HEAL Food Alliance and Public Justice issued the following responses: 

“Weak existing laws have failed to protect workers in the meat processing industry both before and during the COVID pandemic. Now we have an opportunity to improve these working conditions and prevent the deterioration of workers’ health through passing and implementing new laws and policies. I urge Congress to listen to workers’ needs and act swiftly to pass this bill.” – Axel Fuentes, Executive Director, Rural Community Workers Alliance 

“For too long, poultry companies have been exposing workers to inhumane working conditions while profiting from their labor. They have failed to take full accountability for the abuse, injuries, illnesses and financial stress their workers are subject to. This bill will address some of the most urgent protections for workers who have been undervalued to ensure they have dignity as they work to put food on our tables.” – Magaly Licolli, Executive Director, Venceremos

“Meat processing workers have been organizing for safe working conditions and for a voice in their workplace for years, and the COVID pandemic showed us just how much these workers are at risk. While there is still much more to do to protect workers and support worker organizing in meat processing plants, we think the provisions in this Bill are a critically important step.” – Suzanne Adely, Co-director, Food Chain Workers Alliance

“We’re thrilled to see a bill that acknowledges and seeks to protect employees from harsh working conditions, while addressing the stranglehold that a handful of corporations have over this industry. By ensuring that working people have safe conditions and can report workplace violations without fear of retaliation, this Bill helps hold corporations accountable and gives us a tool to fight back against those who disregard their employees, surrounding communities, and the urgency of protecting the air, water, and land we all depend on.” – Navina Khanna, Executive Director, HEAL (Heath, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance 

“The Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act is critical to keeping those who feed us safe and healthy. Safe line speeds, access to proper medical care, and an OSHA standard for COVID-19 and other airborne diseases protect workers from an industry that consistently prioritizes profits over worker safety. Additionally, country-of-origin labelling ensures transparency in our food system and a fair playing field for independent producers and farmers competing against multinational businesses.” – Brent Newell, Food Project Senior Attorney, Public Justice

# # #