Workers at one Arkansas poultry plant were denied restroom breaks to the point some "had to wear Pampers," according to an explosive new report on working conditions in the chicken processing industry.
"I had to wear Pampers," a worker identified as Dolores stated in a damning report called "No Relief" released Wenesday by watchdog group Oxfam America. "I and many, many others had to wear Pampers."
Industry employees also have been forced to cut down on drinking fluids "to a dangerous degree," and some reported having urinated or defecated on themselves while working because they can't hold it in any longer, according to the report.
"Supervisors mock [the workers'] needs and ignore their requests; they threaten punishment or firing," the report's executive summary states. "Workers wait inordinately long times (an hour or more), then race to accomplish the task within a certain timeframe (e.g., ten minutes) or risk discipline."
One worker said supervisors at an Alabama plant regularly threatened people by saying, "Go to the bathroom, and from there, go to Human Resources." Another worker at a plant in the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland and Virginia) region claimed it took between 20 and 60 minutes to get permission to leave her position and use the bathroom.
When workers do get permission to take a break, they aren't given much time to use the facilities. In another section of the report, poultry plant employees say they are given as many as 5 minutes to leave their post, use the restroom and get back.
The report quoted workers at four food companies — Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms and Sanderson Farms — that control 60 percent of America's poultry market.
Representatives for Tyson, Pilgrim's Pride and Perdue responded to the report via email to Bloomberg News. Tyson said the company does "not tolerate the refusal of requests to use the restroom."
Perdue said the actions described in the report were "not consistent" with company policy. Pilgrim's Pride said any allegations would be clear violations of company policy and would result in disciplinary action," if proven.