Three Mississippi chicken processing plants violated labor laws by paying workers below minimum wage and in one case hiring a child to work in meat processing, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, just over a year after the plants were subject to the largest single-state ICE raid in American history.
Koch Foods (headquartered in Park Ridge, Illinois), Peco Foods (headquartered in Tuscaloosa, Alabama) and Pearl River Foods (headquartered in Gainesville, Georgia) were ordered to pay back more than $45,000 in withheld wages from 129 workers.
Koch Foods’ plant in Morton, Mississippi also violated child labor laws by employing a 15-year-old to work in meat processing, a minor that was three years too young to legally work there, according to the Department of Labor.
The company, which has an annual revenue of $3.6 billion, was fined $1,693 for employing the 15-year-old.
The plants used tactics like failing to pay final paychecks and taking illegal deductions from workers’ wages by making them pay for things like gloves and aprons to pay them below minimum wage, the Department of Labor said.
Koch Foods also allegedly paid workers overtime at a lower rate than is required by law.
None of the companies immediately responded to a request for comment from Forbes.
“Employers must pay their employees all of the wages they have earned for all of the hours they have worked, no later than their regularly scheduled payday. In addition, child labor laws exist to ensure that when young people work, the work does not jeopardize their health and well-being,” said Audrey Hall, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division district director.
Peco Foods had committed to giving workers an additional $1.10 an hour in additional pay in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, yet the company still managed to be cited for minimum wage violations.
On Aug. 7, 2019, the plants were the target of the largest single-state ICE raid in U.S. history. A total of 680 workers were taken into custody, with several of the plant managers later indicted for their roles in hiring the undocumented workers. Some of the workers were reportedly arrested by being taken down in a parking lot as they tried to flee. Many jobs at the chicken plants are demanding and have mostly been taken by Latino immigrants, according toThe Associated Press.
More than 4.6 billion. That’s how many pounds of chicken are processed in Mississippi in a year, according to the National Chicken Council. Mississippi is the fifth among U.S. states when it comes to chicken processing.
Largest US immigration raids in a decade net 680 arrests (The Associated Press)
Source: Forbes – Business