June 01, 2023

Cortez Masto and Colleagues Hold Companies Accountable for Contracting with Slaughterhouse Cleaning Firm That Unlawfully Employed Children

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has seen a 69 percent increase in companies illegally employing children since 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) and several Senate colleagues in leading an oversight effort aimed at holding accountable nine companies that contracted with Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. (PSSI), which the Department of Labor found were unlawfully employing child labor at these host companies’ facilities. In nine letters, the senators demand 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.

“We are concerned that [your company] did not conduct sufficiently rigorous monitoring and oversight of third-party contractors like PSSI. This lack of vigilance… allows for egregious violations and raises broader concerns of compliance and accountability,” wrote the senators. “Further, we are concerned that, despite the investigation and settlement by the DOL, Congressional inquiries, and outreach from the United States Department of Agriculture, several host companies have failed to terminate contracts with PSSI, have failed to address the deficiencies in their existing compliance and auditing practices, and/or have failed to institute company-wide oversight practices to address the current crisis.”

In 2023, the DOL found 835 companies it investigated had employed more than 3,800 children in violation of labor laws. In this particular case, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division began investigating PSSI in August 2022 and found PSSI liable for employing more than 100 children, aged thirteen to seventeen at 13 meat-processing facilities in eight states. As DOL 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.

“Without concerted efforts by all relevant parties to root out all instances of child labor across the industry, children will continue to be illegally employed and exploited in dangerous working conditions in our country,” concluded the senators. “As such, we write to ask your company a number of questions to ensure that you properly monitor your contractors for potential FLSA and Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) violations, including child labor, and get to the bottom of past monitoring failures.”

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.

In addition to Sens. Cortez Masto, Menendez and Booker, Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) joined this oversight effort.

For copies of the letters, click HERE.

The proud daughter of a Teamster, Senator Cortez Masto grew up in organized labor and has always fought for Nevada’s working families, and she’s repeatedly spoken against the exploitation of minors. Senator Cortez Masto has introduced the Child Labor Prevention Act to help stop child labor by increasing maximum fines for violations and establishing new criminal penalties to weaken child labor practices and hold employers accountable. Additionally, she has called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the DOL to address child labor and protections for migrant children, and she’s pushing to provide appropriations funding and resources to better serve migrant children.