Union Representing Pork Processing Plant Workers Sues USDA

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The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, along with Public Citizen and local unions in Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas, have filed a federal lawsuit in Minnesota seeking to stop USDA’s new swine slaughter modernization rule. The union representing workers at pork processing plants is challenging new rules allowing pork processing plants to speed up production lines and turn more food safety tasks over to company employees.

USDA’s New Swine Inspection Service rule, announced in September, has been piloted at five pork processing plants, and was developed over many years of research and evaluation. It recently received the endorsement of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians, highlighting the strong science-based approach used in designing the program, a National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) release said.

NPPC President David Herring applauded the rule in a NPPC statement, saying the new inspection system incentivizes investment in new technologies while ensuring a safe supply of wholesome American pork. 

“The U.S. pork production system is the envy of the world because we continuously adopt new practices and technologies, while enhancing safety, quality and consistency,” Herring said. “This new inspection system codifies the advancements we have made into law, reflecting a 21st century industry.”

But UFCW feels otherwise. The union claims the rule will endanger the health and safety of tens of thousands of workers in the hog slaughter industry.

Even at current line speeds, swine slaughter and processing workers face many job risks that can lead to severe injury, illness and death, the UFCW statement said. 

“Thousands of our members work hard every day in America’s pork plants to help families across the country put food on the table. Increasing pork plant line speeds not only is a reckless giveaway to giant corporations, it will put thousands of workers in harm’s way,” Marc Perrone, president of UFCW, said in a press release. “This new rule also would dramatically weaken critical protections that Americans depend on to be able to select safe, healthy food to feed their families every day.”

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