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These Feds Weren’t Clucking Around After Suing Some of the Biggest Poultry Producers

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

A huge suit is dropped on some big-time chicken chain producers in the U.S. by the Justice Department to try and end what it claims to have been a longstanding misleading and oppressive work environment for employees.

The suit, filed in federal court in Maryland, involves Wayne Farms, Cargill, and Sanderson Farms, along with a company known as Webber, Meng, Sahl, and Co. as consulting companies and even its leader.

Looks like they weren’t clucking around. In the claim, the Justice Department charges all the organizations to have taken part in a long-term lie to promote good work benefits along with competitive pay at the poultry processing plants.

The government contends the information counseling firm assisted with sharing the data about the laborers’ compensation with the organizations and their executives. This should go without saying, but if you own a business and offer something to bring employment to your door, you better be ready to keep those promises as people remember these types of things.

No matter what angle it was looked at it was determined that the workers were being underpaid. Not only that, but the officials say that the companies were even reducing the number of benefits and pay the workers would receive all while suppressing other competing chicken processing plants by causing lots of employees to flock their way with their alleged false good pay and great benefits promoting.

To put it into perspective, the litigants and anonymous co-conspirators in the claim represent employing around 90% of all chicken processing jobs in the nation. The suit against the organizations was documented with a proposed consent decree which includes a settlement that would require the organizations to cough up $84.8 million in compensation for employees’ restitution who were hurt by the unlawful data sharing network.

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In addition to this, the settlement would also set up a government monitor chosen by the Justice Department who would then ensure compliance for the next decade not only for the employee’s work conditions but also for the condition of the animals. It reaches even further to do things such as allow any Justice Department lawyers or investigators to inspect the facilities and even interview the employees to ensure the organizations are complying with the terms.

The organizations didn’t skip a beat with things going public either. Like any restaurant when they get a terrible review and have lots of violations, they intend to consolidate Wayne Farms and Sanderson Farms to create a new, privately owned poultry business. Operations will incorporate poultry handling plants and prepared food plants all across Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and North Carolina.

And just when you thought the suit couldn’t get any larger, it does! The proposed consent decree also involves a resolution of unfairly paying chicken farmers. Chicken farmers often get locked into years-long contracts where they are paid unfairly, and in this alleged case not only are they paid unfairly but can even be docked for low performance, causing them to get paid even less. This prevents this from happening to the chicken farmers and instead allows the organizations to offer bonuses and incentives to successful growers.

My only concern is why wait until now to take action. With shortages and inflation boldly appearing everywhere – and fast – won’t that cause even more inflation and shortages?