by Clermont Ripley, Workers' Rights Project, North Carolina Justice Center
Speaking of bathrooms…
Who gets to use which bathroom in public spaces in North Carolina has gotten a lot of attention lately thanks to HB2, which was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly during a special one day session in April. But there is another group of North Carolinians who are also being denied bathroom access: poultry workers.
Low wage workers at poultry processing plants across the state have long complained about not being given enough time to take bathroom breaks while at work. Most poultry processing is done by workers lined up along a moving belt with chickens flying by at a rate of 140 birds per minute. They cannot leave the line to take a break unless someone is there to take their spot on the line. As a result, workers end up limiting their fluid intake or just holding it – both options have adverse medical consequences. No Relief, a new publication from Oxfam America as part of their campaign to improve working conditions in poultry plants, reports that many poultry workers resort to wearing adult diapers in order to avoid discomfort and embarrassment at work. Oxfam also reports that workers who do request bathroom breaks often have to wait an hour to be allowed to go, but many other workers don’t even request breaks because they are scared of punished or threats of retaliation.
Workers at Case Farms in Morganton, North Carolina are fed up with the lack of bathroom access. They are asking their plant manager to adopt a policy of allowing workers bathroom breaks within a reasonable amount of time after the worker’s request: 10 minutes. They are also asking the plant manager to ensure that the line supervisors actually carry out this bathroom break policy. The Farmworker Advocacy Network is proud of the brave stand these poultry workers are taking and is supporting their demand for basic respect and dignity in the workplace. You can lend your voice to their campaign by signing this petition.