Report: Big Meatpackers Tied to Child Labor Exploitation Have Long Histories Of Worker Abuses and Profiteering
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.