A Department of Labor investigation has uncovered “oppressive child labor” practices at the Nebraska and Minnesota slaughterhouses owned by JBS – the company behind Certified Angus Beef and other brands.
Researchers found 31 children ages 13 to 17 who worked for cleaning subcontractor Packers Sanitation Services (PSSI) at JBS plants in Grand Island, Nebraska and Worthington, Minnesota, and at Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall, Minnesota.
The youths worked night shifts cleaning ‘dangerously powered equipment’, officials said:causing a 13-year-old and other underage workers to suffer “caustic chemical burns.”
The Department of Labor has asked the court in Nebraska to impose a nationwide restraining order on PSSI to prevent them from “illegally employing dozens of underage workers” while the investigation continues.
The cleaning company said it has an “absolute company-wide ban” on employing children, but that “rogue states” with fake IDs may have slipped through their control system.
The Department of Labor complaint shows this image of a PSSI employee working in the ground beef room at the JBS plant in Grand Island, Nebraska
A PSSI employee using a hose to clean processing equipment at the JBS plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, from the Department of Labor’s legal complaint
The Department of Labor complaint shows this image of a PSSI employee cleaning with limited vision at the JBS plant in Worthington, Minnesota
Christine Heri, the Regional Solicitor of Labor in Chicago, said the department “will hold to account employers who falsely believe they may violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), obstruct federal investigations, and retaliate against employees who violate their rights. assert rights.”
Investigators targeted PSSI in August after receiving “credible information” about teenagers working at the three slaughterhouses and issuing warrants to gain access to the company’s factories and offices in Keiler, Wisconsin.
They identified violations of the FLSA, which prohibits children from working more than three hours during school days, at night, and from operating motor vehicles, forklifts and other dangerous equipment, the department said.
Those decades-old laws were designed to “prevent employers from taking advantage by endangering children,” said Michael Lazzeri, a Chicago employment agency official.
“Abusing children, exposing them to workplace hazards — and interfering with a federal investigation — demonstrates Packers Sanitation Services’ blatant disregard for the law and for the well-being of young workers,” Lazzeri said.
The subcontractor also intimidated its young employees not to cooperate with government inspectors and “so-called deleted and tampered with labor records,” investigators said.
JBS is behind supermarket brands like Certified Angus Beef, Pilgrim’s, Swift, 1855, Country Pride, Clear River Farms, Moyer and Savoro and many others
JBS is behind supermarket brands like Swift. The world’s largest meat processing company slaughters some 13 million animals a day
A PSSI spokeswoman told DailyMail.com that the company has a “zero tolerance…company-wide ban” on hiring young people and biometrics and uses “industry-leading” government-backed systems to verify the age of new hires .
“While rogue individuals may of course engage in fraud or identity theft, we are confident in our company’s strict compliance policies and will vigorously defend against these claims,” the spokeswoman added.
The spokesperson said she was “surprised” that the department had gone to court for “cooperating with their investigation” through an audit and providing documents.
The company provides sanitation, dry cleaning and pest control in some 700 slaughterhouses and food processing plants in the US and employs approximately 17,000 employees.
JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company, which slaughters more than 13 million animals a day and makes about $50 billion a year, did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
A PSSI promotional image of staff at mealtime. A spokeswoman told DailyMail.com the company has a ‘zero tolerance…company-wide ban’ on hiring young people
A JBS plant in Worthington, Minnesota, where labor officials say children were illegally used to clean equipment at night
Pigs were culled en masse as JBS had to close its plant in Worthington, Minnesota after more than 500 cases of Covid-19 were discovered among workers there
It is behind supermarket brands like Certified Angus Beef, Pilgrim’s, Swift, 1855, Country Pride, Clear River Farms, Moyer and Savoro, and many others. On its website, the company says it has “good corporate governance and strong ethics.”
The company, owned by Brazilian billionaire brothers Wesley and Joesley Batista, was forced to close its Greeley, Colorado and Souderton, Pennsylvania plants in 2020 after four employees died from the coronavirus and more than 100 tested positive.
Likewise, Turkey Valley Farms has not responded to our requests for comment.
Korean automaker Hyundai said last month it was investigating child labor violations in its U.S. supply chain and planned to cut ties with Alabama suppliers that the Alabama Department of Labor and federal agencies had determined relied on underage workers.
Hyundai’s global chief operating officer Jose Munoz told Reuters that the automaker plans to cut ties with SMART Alabama and Korean-run SL Alabama, which supplies Hyundai’s massive car assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama.