Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

Wages and Working Conditions in Arkansas Poultry Plants

By the Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center

Wages and Working Conditions in Arkansas Poultry Plants reveals how Arkansas poultry workers routinely face wage and hour violations, poor safety conditions, racial and ethnic discrimination, and gender-based harassment at their jobs. . The report was a collaboration between UUSC partner, Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center (NWAWJC), UUSC, and the researchers at the University of California Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz.

This survey of 500 workers in Arkansas’s poultry plants paints a picture of a job that is often difficult, dirty, and dangerous. Working conditions frequently result in illness and injury for workers and create an environment in which the risk of meat contamination is high.

“Some of the guys said that if you are absent from work because you are sick then you will get a point. If you reach ten points then you get fired … [but] every time I ask for how many points I have they never tell me.” – Arkansas poultry worker

Based upon research with poultry plant workers, the report provides recommendations including:

  • Policymakers should increase their enforcement of wage and hour laws, including strengthening penalties for violations and bolstering enforcement resources.
  • Line speeds should be regulated and slowed to reduce injury and contamination.
  • Paid sick leave should be guaranteed for all workers.
  • Policymakers and companies should work to reduce discrimination and harassment in the workplace, including enforcing anti-discrimination laws and creating strategies to ensure equitable mobility for workers of color and foreign-born workers.
  • Companies and policymakers should ensure equitable access to bathroom breaks to protect workers’ health and dignity.
  • Workers should be encouraged to organize collectively to pursue better conditions.

Download the report (pdf).