December 6, 2022 | Susan Napier-Sewell

JBS Caught Using Child Labor for Food Safety; Now in Federal Court 


JBS S.A. — the Brazilian company that is the largest meat processing company in the world — has some key JBS USA food safety jobs to fill after being caught using child contractors for overnight sanitation services.

The jobs are open because federal Judge John M. Gerrard has signed a temporary restraining order against Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD, which contracts with JBS to provide children for “cleaning and sanitation services.” The order explicitly concerns JBS Foods in Grand Island, NE, and Worthington, MN.

Packers Sanitation also provides cleaners for Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall, MN.

The evidence upon which the court order is based was provided by U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh. His DOL investigators built their case using school records and executed search warrants at JBS and Packers Sanitation facilities.

“The Secretary’s investigators interviewed children who reported working for Packers Sanitation under the age of 16,” the court order says.

The children told DOL about working long hours or overnight shifts. Others reported working on power-driven machines or on the kill floor.

“Investigators surveilling and searching the facilities also observed workers who based on their size and appearance were likely underage,” the order adds.

DOL has confidential informants that report many child laborers are involved who are working under the same conditions.

The Secretary also told the court that Packers Sanitation (which contracts with JBS) has attempted to interfere with the department’s investigation.

In granting the Temporary Restraining Oder, the Judge said: “the probability” is that DOL will succeed on the merits. A Packers Sanitation corporate officer with authority to speak for the company is ordered to appear at 11 a.m. on Nov. 23 in federal court in Lincoln, NE.

At that time, Judge Gerrard will decide whether to extend, modify, or dissolve the order.

The Fair Labor Standards prohibits an employer from employing “any oppressive child labor in commerce or in production of goods for commerce or in any enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of foods for commerce.”

“Oppressive child labor” includes any child under 16 years of age or between 16 and 18 years of age in any occupation, the Secretary declares to be particularly hazardous or detrimental to the children’s well-being.

The Secretary has declared several occupations in the operation of power-driven meat-processing machines and occupations involving slaughter and meat and poultry packing, processing, and rendering to be hazardous and detrimental to children between 16 and 18.

The Secretary also limits when children can work.

“The Court has little difficulty concluding that any ongoing use of child labor constitutes irreparable harm to the children involved,” the Judge added.

The temporary ruling includes:

+ The Secretary’s TRO is granted.

+ A “cease and refrain” order is imposed on Packers Sanitation, prohibiting the employment of any oppressive child labor.

+ Packers Sanitation must comply with DOL demands for information.

+ Packers Sanitation must preserve evidence.

+ Packers Sanitation is enjoined from instructing employees not to speak to DOL investigators.

+ Orders for Packers Sanitation apply to their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys.

DOL’s investigation of the JBS child employment practices in Nebraska got underway on or about Aug. 24, 2022.

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Investigations, Safety
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