June 05, 2023

Wyden, Merkley, Colleagues Press to Hold Companies Accountable for Unlawfully Employing Migrant Child Labor

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said today that they and Senate colleagues are pressing to hold nine companies accountable that contracted with Packers Sanitation Services, Inc., which the Department of Labor found were unlawfully employing migrant child labor at these host companies’ facilities.

“We write in response to recent reports that your company employed a contractor, Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI), that violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) prohibition on the use of child labor in hazardous environments and exploited migrant children,” Wyden, Merkley, and colleagues wrote to the nine companies. “We are concerned that your company potentially turned a blind eye to glaring child labor issues in your facilities, and are deeply troubled by the response to previous Congressional inquiries that seek to shift accountability away from host companies to third-party contractors. While we recognize that you may have severed ties with PSSI, we are seeking information on your company’s process for monitoring contractor compliance with labor laws as well as information on the changes you will be implementing to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.”

Since 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor has seen a 69 percent increase in companies illegally employing children. In fiscal year 2023, the Department of Labor found 835 companies it investigated had employed more than 3,800 children in violation of labor laws. In this particular case, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division began investigating PSSI in August 2022 and found PSSI liable for employing more than 100 children, aged 13 to 17 at 13 meat-processing facilities in eight states. As Department of Labor noted when unveiling an interagency child labor task force in February, companies who contract for services are often not vigilant about who is working in their facilities, creating child labor violations up and down the supply chain, and host companies often falsely claim that they are unaware or unable to control child labor issues happening at their worksites.

In the letters, the senators asked each host company to detail the changes to their contractor monitoring and procurement processes they plan to implement or have made since the discovery of PSSI’s use of child labor to ensure this never happens again.

The senators sent letters to nine companies that contracted with PSSI, including Tyson Foods, George’s Inc. (part of Rosen's Diversified, Inc.), JBS Foods, Maple Leaf Farms Inc., Cargill Inc., Turkey Valley Farms, Buckhead Meat of Minnesota (part of Sysco Corporation), Gibbon Packing Co., and Greater Omaha Packing Co. Inc.

The letters were led by U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. Alongside Wyden and Merkley, the letters were signed by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Peter Welch, D-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and John Fetterman, D-Pa.

Copies of the letter are here.