Report: Big Meatpackers Tied to Child Labor Exploitation Have Long Histories Of Worker Abuses and Profiteering
Washington D.C. – A new review from government watchdog Accountable.US found meatpackers that own plants named in a recent federal illegal child labor citation have histories of more widespread labor abuses, price hiking, and soaring profits. In February 2023, the U.S. Labor Department imposed $1.5 million in child labor fines against Packers Sanitation, Inc., a cleaning firm that employed over 100 minors in dangerous jobs at plants run by major meatpackers including JBS USA, Cargill, Tyson Foods, and others.
Among Accountable.US’ findings:
- After marking up consumer prices to historic highs, the two largest domestic meatpackers, Cargill and Tyson Foods, saw profits jump a combined $1.9 billion—a nearly 25% increase—in their most recently completed fiscal years. Meanwhile, these two companies spent over $2.5 billion on shareholder handouts, including a record $1.2 billion in dividends to Cargill’s billionaire shareholders.
- JBS Foods had three plants involved in the Labor Department’s child labor citation; Has faced several serious worker safety penalties and investigations after worker deaths and injuries; Agreed to pay $29 million for colluding to suppress worker wages; and Has been involved in multiple legal actions totaling at least $160 million for price-fixing.
- Cargill Inc. had two plants involved in the Labor Department’s child labor citation; Has seen meat workers file a class action over missing overtime wages and meal breaks; Closed a salt plant after workers were killed in a mine collapse; Paid $15 million for a “long-running conspiracy” to suppress wages; Faced a major lawsuit alleging it enabled child slave labor while its billionaire family receives about 17% of the company’s annual profits
- Tyson Foods owns two plants involved in the Labor Department’s child labor citation; Faced a civil rights complaint for systematically exposing minority workers to “‘oppressive and dangerous’” conditions; Faced multiple serious federal safety violations over many years; Refused to comply with a price-fixing subpoena despite crediting price hikes for higher profits; Touted “‘record sales and earnings’” in its most recent fiscal year with prices rising by double-digits.
While everyday families deal with historically high food prices, the biggest domestic meat processors have seen their profits fatten by nearly $2 billion while carving off massive new giveaways for wealthy investors. Shockingly, this profiteering has even allegedly taken place on the backs of illegal child labor, all while cutting corners on worker safety. The big meat packers exemplify the corporate greed epidemic and why corporations need to finally pay their fair share.”
Liz Zelnick, Accountable.US’ Director of Economic Security and Corporate Power.
Accountable.US’ findings come on the heels of President Biden’s new budget blueprint that pushes for stronger and fairer competition by lifting up smaller meat producers, as well as a fairer corporate tax rate that will help rein in corporate greed and profiteering seen often from the big meatpacking industry.