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Citizen Action Asks Kroger's to Investigate Conditions at Case Farms Poultry Processing Plant

CINCINNATI, Nov. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Citizen Action today asked Kroger's to investigate questions of worker safety and food safety at the Case Farms poultry processing plants in Ohio and North Carolina. At a rally outside Kroger's Cincinnati headquarters, Rachael Belz, Citizen Action's Southwest Ohio Director, displayed over 400 letters from Citizen Action members to Kroger President David Dillon asking him to investigate allegations of dangerously high line speeds for chicken processing.

"As the nation's largest supermarket chain, which carries Case Farms poultry at many of its Ohio stores, we urge Kroger's to use its considerable influence to look into safety questions at Case Farms," Belz said.

"Case Farms employees are processing an average of 90 chickens per minute -- these can be dangerous speeds for both the workers and consumers of the chicken," Belz said. "The USDA estimates that 40% of all chickens sold in the U.S. are contaminated with salmonella. They actually advise consumers to treat all poultry as if it's contaminated. The question must be asked: does the high line speed at Case Farms increase the likelihood of contaminated food reaching the grocery store shelves?"

Case Farms has poultry processing plants in Morganton, North Carolina, and Winesburg, Ohio. Luis Alberto Gonzales, a 29-year old Guatemalan worker at the North Carolina plant, was on hand at the rally in Cincinnati.

While in Ohio today, Gonzales also traveled to Dayton where he held a press conference at the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Tomorrow, leaders of national religious and consumer organizations will hold a press conference in Washington, D.C., where they will call upon the Department of Labor to investigate widespread allegations of mistreatment of poultry processors and growers throughout the industry.

In April of this year, the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, headquartered in Chicago, sent a delegation of religious leaders on a fact-finding investigation of worker conditions at the North Carolina plant. The committee listened to workers' concerns about dangerously fast line speed, low wages and benefits, and requirements that workers purchase their own medicine when treating work-related injuries. Most of the workers at the North Carolina plant are Guatemalan. Workers voted to be represented by the Laborers International Union of North America in July 1995, but the management has refused to negotiate a contract with the union, according to the National Interfaith Committee.

In August 1996, Citizen Action sponsored a fact-finding visit to Holmes County, along with retired Methodist Bishop Jesse R. Dewitt, president of the National Interfaith Committee. They met with growers and Case Farms workers in Ohio, who complained of company policies of deducting the cost of clothing, rent, and transportation from their paychecks.

Ohio Citizen Action campaigns on issues from public health and the environment to utility and insurance rates. Founded in 1976, Ohio Citizen Action is independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit. It is the largest organization of its kind in the nation, with 350,000 members.

SOURCE Ohio Citizen Action
 -0- 11/25/96


/CONTACT: Rachael Belz, 513-221-2100, or Sandy Buchanan, 216-861-5200, both of Citizen Action/

CO: Ohio Citizen Action; Kroger ST: Ohio IN: FOD SU:

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Date:Nov 25, 1996
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