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Union sues USDA over increased poultry rates



United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and five local unions have filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture over increased lines for poultry facilities faster the department approved in 2018.

The plaintiffs, represented by the Public Citizens Litigation Group, claim in their complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, that the USDA Food Safety Inspection Exemption Program should be discontinued and 10 currently active exemptions should be repealed.

In September 2018, the department announced that it would consider exemptions from the poultry industry which seeks to increase the slaughter lines for poultry to a maximum of 1

75 birds per minute. The law previously set the maximum speed for slaughter lines for poultry at 140 birds per minute.

The complaint alleges that the USDA failed to follow the necessary procedures and ignored its own rules and policies when adopting the program. It also claims that the increased speeds further expose workers who are already exposed to COVID-19 risks. Work outbreaks of COVID-19 have put an end to several facilities for poultry and meat processing.

An animal welfare group filed a lawsuit against the USDA in February over poultry processing speeds, and another lawsuit was filed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union on behalf of pig processing workers in April.

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