These Workers Were Forced To Wear Diapers For The Most Inhumane Reason

by John Haltiwanger

America's never-ending demand for chicken is linked to some absolutely abhorrent practices in the poultry industry.

According to a new report from Oxfam America, "No Relief," workers at plants owned by some of the largest US poultry companies are routinely being denied bathroom breaks and find themselves wearing diapers to accommodate this inhumane policy.

So, if you're eating chicken tonight, there's a chance the person who helped package it soiled him or herself while doing so.

Not so appetizing anymore, is it?

Supervisors deny the poultry workers bathroom breaks in order to maintain production rates, the report notes, sometimes blatantly ignoring or even mocking bathroom break requests.

In the process, they are robbing these people of their dignity, and placing their health in danger.

As the report states,

While the poultry industry today enjoys record profits and pumps out billions of chickens, the reality of life inside the processing plant remains grim and dangerous. Workers earn low wages, suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, toil in difficult conditions, and have little voice in the workplace. Despite all that, though, workers say the thing that offends their dignity most is simple: lack of adequate bathroom breaks, and the suffering that entails... The situation strikes women particularly hard. They face biological realities such as menstruation, pregnancy, and higher vulnerability to infections; and they struggle to maintain their dignity and privacy when requesting breaks.

In addition to wearing diapers, workers limit their intake of liquids, and sometimes even urinate or defecate while on the line, because of the extreme lack of bathroom breaks.

Roughly 250,000 poultry workers are reportedly being subjected to these atrocious conditions.

Debbie Berkowitz, senior fellow at the National Employment Law Project, witnessed the shocking challenges poultry workers face firsthand, and helped produce the Oxfam report. As she put it,

Access to a bathroom is required under US safety laws, but it would take over 100 years for the nation's understaffed worker-safety agency to visit every workplace just once. Poultry companies could fix this problem if they wanted to: they simply need to staff their plants so workers can leave the lines when they need to use the bathroom... The top poultry companies are enjoying record profits and booming sales. Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's, Sanderson Foods and Perdue together control most of the US chicken market. They can and should take steps to alleviate suffering on their production lines, including ensuring workers get adequate breaks.

Indeed, no person, in any industry or field, should be denied a human need as basic as going to the bathroom in order to keep his or her job.

There is no amount of profit that justifies dehumanizing practices like this.