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Hundreds of workers at Blackstone’s Packers Sanitation join union

June 27, 2023

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) announced that in the last few weeks, hundreds of Packers Sanitation (PSSI) workers that clean meatpacking and food processing plants across the country have joined the UFCW. The union has reached an agreement to enable Packers Sanitation workers across the country to unionize.

“The problems we have witnessed in the industry must firmly remain a thing of the past and we believe that good, strong, union contracts are crucial to protecting all meatpacking and food processing workers,” UFCW President Marc Perrone said.

Because there are better safety records at unionized facilities, workers who join with UFCW are more likely to experience safer workplaces.

In February, Packers Sanitation paid $1.5 million in civil money penalties after the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Wage and Hour Division found the company employed at least 102 children – some as young as 13 years old – in hazardous occupations, and had them working overnight shifts at 13 slaughterhouses in eight states.

The children were working with hazardous chemicals and cleaning meat processing equipment including back saws, brisket saws and head splitters. Investigators learned at least three minors suffered injuries while working for Packers Sanitation.

“These findings represent a systemic failure across Packers Sanitation’s entire organization to ensure that children were not working in violation of the law,” said the DOL.

Multiple Blackstone executives serve on Packers Sanitation’s board.

Packers has since lost contracts with some of its largest clients and the value of the company’s debt dropped dramatically in recent weeks.

A year ago, the Private Equity Stakeholder Project released a report on Packers Sanitation, Profit Over Safety: Private Equity’s Leveraged Bet on Packers Sanitation, noting how PSSI has stood out as a dangerous workplace even as Blackstone has collected hundreds of millions of dollars in dividends from the company. Since May 2018, when Blackstone acquired PSSI, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had conducted investigations of at least four amputations and three fatalities of PSSI employees, including a decapitation.

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