Central Minnesota poultry plant workers stepped up their efforts to get management to address what they say are unsafe working conditions, demonstrating Wednesday outside the headquarters of GNP Co., the maker of Gold'n Plump and Just Bare chicken products.
A study conducted last spring found that their jobs are increasingly unsafe because of the line speed on the poultry processing lines. Workers said management has turned a deaf ear to their concerns and fired workers who speak out.
Several said they have not been allowed to use the bathroom outside of their few designated breaks. Even pregnant women, and workers with medical conditions such as diabetes, have been denied access to bathrooms, they said. As a result, some workers have soiled themselves as they attempted to keep working on the line.
While some people quit because of the conditions, other say they cannot. Many poultry plant employees are recent immigrants with few options for employment.
On Wednesday, workers made another attempt to get management to meet with them to discuss their concerns. Representatives of the St. Cloud-based Greater Minnesota Worker Center attempted to deliver petitions from workers and consumers to the GNP office in St. Cloud, but staff at the office would not accept them.
"We had 800 consumers and more than 60 workers sign petitions," said Ahmed Ali, an organizer for the center. "They refused to accept our letter and the package" of petitions. His report was met with chants of "Shame!" by the group of about 50 demonstrators gathered in front of the building. In addition to current and former poultry workers, they included members of unions, students and representatives of faith organizations.
In November, GNP announced it was being sold to a competitor, Pilgrim's Pride, for $350 million. Workers said their next step will be to send the petitions to Pilgrim's Pride headquarters in Greeley, Colo.