Every day in Alabama, thousands of people report to work at vast poultry processing plants. Inside these frigid plants, workers stand almost shoulder-to-shoulder as chicken carcasses zip by on high-speed processing lines. Together, small teams of workers may hang, gut or slice more than 100 birds in a single minute. It's a process they'll repeat for eight hours or more in order to prepare birds for dinner tables and restaurants across America.
This grueling work serves as the foundation of a lucrative industry that supplies the country's most popular meat. It's an industry with an $8.5 billion impact on the state -- generating about 75,000 jobs and 10 percent of Alabama's economy -- and one that plays a vital economic role in numerous small towns. But it all comes at a steep price for the low-paid, hourly workers who face the relentless pressure of the mechanized processing line.
This is the face of the modern poultry industry in Alabama -- an industry unfettered by serious regulation and blessed with a vulnerable workforce that has lacked a voice in the halls of government and has little power to effect change. This report presents survey findings and examines how flawed policy, lack of oversight and weak enforcement has allowed this exploitation to thrive. It also offers recommendations to end it.