Company Hired Minors To Clean Lethal Equipment At Slaughtering And Meat Packing Plants, Says Dept Of Labor

( — The US Department of Labor has accused a janitorial company of illegally employing at least two dozen children to clean meat processing plants in the US, the Associated Press reported.

The agency has filed a request for an injunction against Fayette Janitorial Service, LLC, in Tennessee to block it from employing minors. The Labor Department told a federal judge that Fayette had at least four children working at a slaughterhouse in Iowa as recently as December 12, 2023.

Under US labor laws, children under the age of 18 are prohibited from working in meat processing plants due to workplace hazards.

According to the Department of Labor, Fayette has placed underage workers in meat processing facilities to sanitize hazardous equipment, including meat bandsaws, head-splitters, and jaw-pullers.

In its filing, the agency cited severe injuries sustained by a 14-year-old Fayette worker who was cleaning a belt on a drumstick packing line at a Virginia plant. Even after learning that the child was injured, Fayette continued to employ underage workers, a Labor Department investigator reported.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Fayette Janitorial said it was cooperating fully with the Labor Department’s investigation and had updated its policies to improve hiring practices, including hiring a third-party legal representative to vet employees and appointing a new CEO.

Fayette is the latest example of companies employing illegal child labor, a practice US officials have said is becoming increasingly common.

In July 2023, a 16-year-old was killed at a poultry plant in Mississippi after being mangled while “conducting sanitation operations.” Another 16-year-old was killed in an accident at a Wisconsin sawmill in December.

In 2023, another janitorial company was ordered to pay more than $1.5 million in penalties for illegally employing children as cleaners at 13 meatpacking plants.

In an April 2023 letter to members of the meat and poultry industry, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted the issue as part of the Biden administration’s effort to combat illegal child labor.

According to the Labor Department, the use of illegal child labor in the United States has increased by 88 percent since 2019.

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