News & Commentary

May 12, 2016

According to a report published Wednesday by Oxfam America, workers in the U.S. poultry industry are under such pressure on the processing line that they are routinely denied bathroom breaks. As a result, some workers have taken to wearing diapers to make sure that they can take care of their basic needs without drawing the ire of their supervisors. In response to the report — which is titled No Relief: Denial of Bathroom Breaks in the Poultry Industry — the National Chicken Council insisted that it was “troubled by these claims,” but also characterized the report as “paint[ing] the whole industry with a broad brush based on a handful of anonymous claims.” Yet VICE News observes that Oxfam’s findings “are the result of three years of research, hundreds of interviews with current and former poultry workers, medical experts, and worker advocates, and are in keeping with other studies on the same subject.” For example, a 2013 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice found that 80% of surveyed poultry workers said that they were not allowed to take bathroom breaks when they needed to take them.

What might the new association for Uber drivers in NYC mean in the long run? The New York Post editorial board contends that the “compromise could be the beginning of the end of Uber” if it eventually leads to a full-fledged drivers’ union. The Post insists that “[a] true union would be death to Uber’s business model, which relies on drivers to work as independent contractors, not unionized employees.” This model, the Post argues, is essential because it helps Uber keep fares low and provides drivers with the flexibility to choose their own hours.” And ensuring that “[e]very customer gets service from a self-employed professional, not a clock-puncher” is a matter of critical importance, or so says the Post: “If ever there was a cause for progressives to champion, saving the app-based firms is it.”

Writing in the Huffington Post, James P. Hoffa of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters accuses XPO Logistics — the country’s second-largest logistics company after UPS — of disrespecting workers in Europe and the United States. Hoffa claims that the company, which recently purchased Con-way Freight and two major port trucking companies, is not only “mismanaging the integration of its new businesses,” but also “mistreating former Con-way workers by closing terminals, subcontracting out work and laying off employees.” And across the Atlantic, “[t]he company broke its promise not to lay off any workers in France for at least 18 months after the company purchased a competitor,” while “[s]imilar struggles with XPO are taking place in Great Britain, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands.” Yet the workers aren’t taking XPO’s treatment of them lying down: Hoffa notes that European union leaders “are joining U.S. truck drivers and the Teamsters outside a shareholders’ meeting for XPO Logistics to take the company to task for its treatment of workers both here and abroad.”

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