Slaughterhouse cleaner admits child labor at 3 Minnesota plants, fined $1.5M

Person sprays water on stairs
In a photo included in the U.S. Department of Labor's lawsuit against Packers Sanitation Services Inc., a worker at the JBS pork processing plant in Worthington, Minn. uses a high-pressure hose to clean equipment. Packers Sanitation was fined $1.5 million for using child labor to clean slaughterhouses, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday.
U.S. Department of Labor

A Wisconsin-based company accused of hiring minors to clean slaughterhouses in Minnesota and seven other states has paid $1.5 million in federal fines for using child labor.

Packers Sanitation Services Inc., admitted to using more than 100 children ages 13 to 17 to clean slaughterhouses at 13 plants, including three in Minnesota: Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall, Buckhead Meat of Minnesota in St. Cloud and JBS Foods in Worthington.

At the JBS plant alone, PSSI had 22 underage workers on the overnight shift, the U.S. Department of Labor noted in a statement Friday announcing the penalties.

The federal probe found teens cleaning items including saws and head splitters.

Packers Sanitation agreed late last year to comply with labor laws. The fine was the maximum per violation allowed under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Federal regulators said Packers Sanitation’s hiring systems flagged some workers as underage but the company ignored the warnings and then tried to derail the investigation into its employment practices.

“These children should never have been employed in meat packing plants,” Jessica Looman, a Labor Department official, said in a statement. “This can only happen when employers do not take responsibility to prevent child labor violations from occurring in the first place.”

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