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Judge ‘Trumps’ Trump’s Line Speedup At Pork Plants - UFCW Calls Ruling A “Victory” For Pork & Poultry Processing Workers

Published Thursday, April 8, 2021
by Mark Gruenberg Via People’s World
Judge ‘Trumps’ Trump’s Line Speedup At Pork Plants - UFCW Calls Ruling A “Victory” For Pork & Poultry Processing Workers

(MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA) - In a big win in court for U.S. Pork Plant Workers, a Federal Judge in Minneapolis has trumped former GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump’s Agriculture Department’s rule eliminating speed limits on pork plant processing lines.

Instead, District Judge Joan Ericksen bounced the issue back to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for 90 days to try again to write a line speed rule - and to follow the law when it does so.

Under Trump, Ericksen said, the agency didn’t.

United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) President Marc Perrone, whose million-Member Union represents Pork and Poultry Processing Workers, called her ruling “a victory” for them.

Judge Ericksen, Perrone said, is “Finally ending the dangerous Trump USDA policy that allowed pork plants to push Workers (whom Perrone called “brave men and women”) to the breaking point with unsafe line speeds that increase the risk of injury and put safety of our food supply in jeopardy.  With the success of this lawsuit, our country’s Essential Workers sent a powerful message the safety of America’s food and Workers is not for sale and these companies will finally be forced to stop these dangerous practices.”

But while FSIS goes back to work on a new rule, the Government Employees and Perrone’s UFCW both back Congressional efforts to beat the USDA to the end of the finish line.

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (Democrat-New Jersey) and a group of House Democrats, led by influential U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (Democrat-Connecticut) wrote legislation to stop Trump’s trick and impose speed limits on both meat and poultry production lines, citing Worker safety during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Trump’s rule, promulgated before the virus hit, gave selected plants waivers from already high line speeds.

In practice, any plant that sought a waiver got it.

In her March 31st ruling, Judge Ericksen, a George H.W. Bush appointee, said that when the Trump Agency - which acted after lobbying from pork producers - cut out the line speed limits and allowed the waivers it did so illegally, violating Federal notice-and-comment rules.

“When FSIS proposed the New Swine Inspection System,” which the Unions said could raise already fast line speeds by at least 25%, “It expressly identified Worker safety as an important consideration and requested public comment on whether increasing line speeds would harm Workers,” the judge wrote. “Then, after receiving many comments raising Worker safety concerns, FSIS rejected the comments and eliminated line speed limits without considering Worker safety.  In doing so, the agency failed to satisfy the Administrative Procedure Act’s requirement of reasoned decision-making.  Therefore, the court will vacate the final rule’s elimination of line speed limits under the NSIS.”

Before Judge Swensen’s ban, Organized Labor said the practical impact of the Trump USDA’s rule is to put the Workers in even more danger, from the threat of COVID-19 than they already were in the crowded conditions and high line speeds in pork and poultry plants.

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