Tyson, Perdue face child labor investigations Companies accused of employing migrant kids on Eastern Shore. Original Report By Hannah Dreier The New York Times.
Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms are under federal investigation into whether they relied on migrant children to clean slaughterhouses, some of the most dangerous work in the country. The Labor Department opened the inquiries after an article in The New York Times Magazine, published this month, found migrant children working overnight shifts for contractors in the companies’ plants on the Eastern Shore. Children as young as 13 were using acid and pressure hoses to scour blood, grease and feathers from industrial machines.
The investigations are a rare instance of two major consumer brands facing federal scrutiny over child labor. Many meat-processing companies outsource cleaning to sanitation firms, which technically employ the workers. After another Labor Department investigation recently found more than 100 children cleaning plants around the country, one firm, Packers Sanitation Services Inc., paid a $1.5 million fine. But the national corporations that benefited from the children’s work, including Tyson, did not come under investigation.
Representatives for Perdue and Tyson said the companies would cooperate with any investigations. The companies, which have policies prohibiting underage labor, said they had not known children were working in their Virginia plants. Tyson said it was now directly employing cleaners at 40% of its slaughterhouses and aimed to bring more of this work in-house. Perdue said it had hired an outside auditor to suggest new policies.
Thousands of Mexican and Central American children who have come to the United States alone since 2021 and ended up in dangerous, grueling jobs, the Times has reported.
The Times reported this month that food safety inspectors regularly encountered minors working in the Virginia plants but did not believe it was their role to report child labor violations. The inspectors said they knew the children had to work to pay rent and send money back to desperate families.