PSSI Under Investigation for Child Labor

Courtesy of Jagz Mario (Flickr CC0)

PSSI Under Investigation

According to a federal court document submitted on Tuesday morning, an industrial cleaning company has been charged by federal investigators with recruiting dozens of kids to clean slaughterhouses during the night shift, and has settled the claims with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Packers Sanitation Services Inc., or PSSI, says it will examine and improve its current policies and training materials as part of the consent decree, as well as employ a third-party consultant to provide “quarterly child labor compliance training” and keep an eye on the business’ compliance for three years. Additionally, the business will include a new child labor clause in customer contracts and report to the Labor Department how many employees are let go as a result of following child labor rules.

According to a previously undisclosed local police report obtained by NBC News, allegations of underage labor at a slaughterhouse in Grand Island, Nebraska, extend back to 2016. In the complaint, it stated that a 14-year-old girl had “injuries to her hands” and had caused an officer to be summoned to the neighborhood middle school. According to the paper, they looked into charges of “child abuse.”

According to a Grand Island Police Department spokesperson, the child’s work at PSSI was to blame for the injuries. They investigated the child’s guardian, but no charges were filed after the case was brought to the local prosecutor.

Child Labor

The Wage and Hour Division of the Labor Department will complete its investigation and “ensure children are not working in violation of federal regulations at this company or at others,” according to Michael Lazzeri, regional administrator for the department’s Chicago division. Lazzeri reported a 50% increase in child labor offenses since 2018. The U.S. Department of Labor will not tolerate violations of the law, especially those that endanger vulnerable children, and this case should serve as a sobering warning to all employers of that fact.

A PSSI representative spoke in a statement regarding the consent decree with the federal government: “We are pleased to have reached a settlement with the Department of Labor (DOL) inquiry into this matter. We have been quite clear from the beginning: PSSI has a zero-tolerance policy on hiring anyone who is younger than 18 and completely supports DOL’s goal of making sure it is adhered to strictly at all local factories.”

Courtesy of Ryokotsusai (Flickr CC0)

The corporation will further enhance its present identity-verification procedures, which they stated include intensive training, several audits, and biometrics, as well as required use of the government’s E-verify system for new hires.

The resolution comes about a month after the Department of Labor accused the company of using at least 31 kids to work graveyard shifts in slaughterhouses across three states. In the complaint, it stated that some kids started their shifts at the facilities at 11 p.m. and worked until 5, 6, or 7 a.m., with some working until 8 a.m., cleaning the killing floors and various machines, including meat and bone cutting saws and a grinding machine. According to the lawsuit, employment in the slaughterhouses caused chemical burns to at least three children.

Minors Working For PSSI

In accordance with court documents, since PSSI’s filing last month, the Labor Department has identified an additional 19 minors who worked for the company at two additional facilities. This brings the total number of minors who have worked for the company to at least 50 across five facilities in three states.

According to the complaint from last month, federal officials said the business broke the Fair Labor Standards Act, which forbids children from engaging in any form of hazardous activity and oppressive child labor. Many jobs in slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants are classified by the Department of Labor’s Child Labor Regulations as hazardous for young people.

In court documents, the business did not deny hiring juveniles, but blamed rogue personnel who produced fraudulent identification bearing fake Social Security numbers.

Federal officials claimed in their complaint submitted last month that preliminary data suggests the corporation may also be employing more kids at 400 additional locations around the nation under comparable circumstances.

A representative for the Department of Labor stated that it is still looking into the matter.

In total, PSSI employs 17,000 people across 500 locations. Blackstone, a private equity firm, acquired ownership of the business in 2018.

Written by Gabriel Salgado


CBS News: Children illegally hired for graveyard shifts cleaning JBS meat plants, feds say

CNBC News: Food sanitation company accused of employing at least 31 children on graveyard shifts in slaughterhouses

NBC News: The company accused of employing dozens of minors in slaughterhouses on the graveyard shift reaches agreement with the feds

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Jagz Mario Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Inset Image Courtesy of Ryokotsusai Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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