Child labor abuses at two Los Angeles-area poultry processing plants

I didn't think poultry processing could get any worse, but LAist reports that two plants in the Los Angeles area have been caught subjecting child laborers to horrific conditions.

At two Los Angeles-area poultry processing plants, Department of Labor investigators found grueling working conditions for at least eight child workers.

Children as young as 14 stood for as long as 12 hours a day, bent over tables in a cold warehouse as they cut and deboned poultry as fast as they could, said Nisha Parekh, an attorney with the Labor Department.

Washers would regularly rinse away blood and poultry guts from the floor. The environment persistently stank of raw meat. Some children had deep cuts on their arms or hands, Parekh said. The child workers were all indigenous Guatemalan migrants who spoke little or no Spanish or English.

The two processing plants are owned through a string of holding companies by The Exclusive Poultry Inc., and its owner, Tony Bran. LAist story tells not only of employing underage Guatemalan kids in disgusting conditions but of legal chicanery to hide it. Bran also reputedly issued threats to employees to keep his illegal activity secret.

The defendant companies will be monitored for three years, and workers who were fired from the plant after investigators' visits will get preferential hiring for open positions, Parekh said.

It's the second time this year Bran and companies he works with have been punished for labor violations. In April, the state Labor Commissioner's Office reached a $1.47 million settlement with Bran and his affiliated employers to resolve wage theft citations.

According to the Labor Commissioner's Office, Bran's poultry processors underpaid more than 300 workers. Workers weren't provided rest breaks or paid overtime, and they weren't compensated for time spent waiting for chicken shipments to arrive and for deboned chicken to be removed from their work area, the state said.