OAN Geraldyn Berry
4:05 PM PT – Friday, February 17, 2023
In what the Labor Department dubbed as a “corporate-wide failure” by one of the biggest food sanitation companies in the nation, Packers Sanitation Services Inc. has been discovered to have had 102 minors as young as 13. These minors were employed in dangerous nocturnal positions, cleaning slaughterhouses in over eight states.
According to the Labor Department, the kids who were doing nightly shifts “clean[ing] razor-sharp saws using caustic chemicals.” As a result, for the infractions, Packers Sanitation Services had paid a $1.5 million fine. The Fair Labor Standards Act, which provides a $15,138 fine for each minor who was worked illegally, had set the fine amount.
Regional Administrator for the division in Chicago Michael Lazzeri issued a statement in the wake of the findings. The company had initially claimed that it had “a zero-tolerance policy against employing anyone under the age of 18.”
“Our investigation found Packers Sanitation Services’ systems flagged some young workers as minors, but the company ignored the flags. When the Wage and Hour Division arrived with warrants, the adults — who had recruited, hired and supervised these children — tried to derail our efforts to investigate their employment practices,” Lazzeri said.
It is reported that the company employs about 17,000 workers at 700 different sites nationwide.
Several of the children employed by PSSI, according to advocates and attorneys for the children, were unaccompanied minors who had just crossed the southern border. The Office of Refugee Resettlement of the Department of Health and Human Services received unaccompanied adolescents once the Border Patrol had processed them. The sponsors were then paired with the kids, who typically had some connection to their families.
“We are pleased to have finalized this settlement figure as part of our previously announced December resolution with the Department of Labor (DOL) that ends their inquiry. We have been crystal clear from the start: Our company has a zero-tolerance policy against employing anyone under the age of 18 and fully shares the DOL’s objective of ensuring full compliance at all locations,” Packers Sanitation Services Inc said. “As soon as we became aware of the DOL’s allegations, we conducted multiple additional audits of our employee base. … Our audits and DOL’s investigation confirmed that none of the individuals DOL cited as under the age of 18 work for the company today, and many had separated from employment with PSSI multiple years ago. The DOL has also not identified any managers aware of improper conduct that are currently employed by PSSI.”
Gregory Chen, senior director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, released a statement advocating for the protection of children.
“It is vital that the federal government not only investigate the violations committed by this private company, but in addition that it provides protections for the children who may have been victimized by this country. In particular, both the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor should apply policies they have recently announced to ensure these children are not deported to country into unsafe circumstances, that they receive legal protection to be able to remain in this country and have a stable, safe environment.”