#GiveThemABreak: Oxfam Demands Poultry Workers Be Allowed Bathroom Breaks

On May 11, Oxfam America, along with allied organizations, rallied at the Tyson Foods headquarters to demand that Tyson and other leading poultry companies provide their employees with a safe, respectful working environment.

Last year, Oxfam released a report and website that included photos, videos, and personal accounts from poultry workers throughout the United States. One of the most common issues experienced by these employees is denial of bathroom breaks.

"Poultry workers are humiliated, degraded, and put at risk of serious, painful health issues including urinary tract infections, because supervisors are under pressure to keep up production," wrote Debbie Berkowitz, senior fellow at the National Employment Law Office, as noted by Quartz.

While Tyson reportedly guarantees bathroom breaks in its "Bill of Rights," supervisors allegedly inflict restrictions, disciplinary policies, and quotas that virtually prohibit use of bathroom facilities.  

"I was stunned when poultry workers in Arkansas told me that people regularly wear diapers to work in the plants," said Minor Sinclair, Director of Oxfam America’s US Program. "They feel they have to put up with this, to keep their jobs. The supervisors do whatever they can to keep the line running at breakneck speed, and the companies turn a blind eye, as they’re racking up record profits. It feels like something out of ‘The Jungle,’ from a hundred years ago, but it’s happening right now. It just isn’t right."

Through their rally, petitions with over 100,000 supporters, and #GiveThemABreak social media hashtag, Oxfam aims to send a message to the top four companies: Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms, and change these inhumane policies throughout all levels of their organizations.