Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh has requested a temporary nationwide injunction against Wisconsin-based Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. after investigators discovered minors working in dangerous conditions and on overnight shifts at food processing plants in Minnesota and Nebraska.
The request comes after DoL found that Packers employed at least 31 children between the ages of 13 and 17 at JBS in Grand Island, Nebraska and Worthington, Minnesota as well as at Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall, Minnesota.
What the DoL Found:
- Kids operated dangerous powered equipment during overnight shifts.
- Some kids suffered chemical burns and other injuries.
- The sanitation service also allegedly deleted or manipulated employee files and used intimidation to stop the minors from cooperating in the investigation.
In 1938, FDR signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) into law, which establishes minimum wage, overtime pay eligibility, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments. Children under the age of 14 are barred from working, yet Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. allegedly employed thirteen year olds.
Kids between the ages of 14 and 15 cannot work past 9 p.m. in the summer nor past 7 p.m. during the school year, yet Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. allegedly had kids working graveyard shifts.
The law states sixteen and seventeen year olds cannot work more than three hours on a school day and more than 18 hours a week. It also bars children from operating with or around “hazardous” equipment, yet Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. blatantly ignored the law and some kids got seriously hurt. Many of the children detailed in the Department of Labor’s complaint were tasked with cleaning machines used to cut meat, which included “electric knives” and “grasselli skinners”—a tool used to skin fat from an animal’s carcass.
In a statement, the company rejected DoL’s claims but will continue to cooperate with them and enforce DoL’s absolute prohibition of employing anyone under the age of 18.