In addition to the five most dangerous jobs that teens are legally allowed to perform, NCL warns working youth to avoid meatpacking jobs. Although workers are supposed to be 18 to work in these plants, federal immigration raids in plants in Iowa and South Carolina in 2008 found children as young as 13 and 14 working.
In the spring of 2010, the trial involving child labor allegations at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa revealed harsh conditions endured by working teens—the youngest of which was 13. One teen said he was pushed to process 90 chickens per minute with electric shears. Another Postville teen said that industrial cleaners made her skin peel. Another worker said that when he was 16, he worked 12-hour days, six days a week.
Meat processing work is very dangerous, requiring thousands of cutting motions a day with sharp knives. In a visit to Postville in the summer of 2008, NCL staff interviewed a young worker who cut himself while processing meat when he was only 16 years old. One teen said that industrial cleaners caused her skin to peel.
One of the examples we provided in our forklift section involved a 17-year-old who was killed in a forklift accident in a meatpacking plant.
In addition to being dangerous, the work is messy, bloody, exhausting and too demanding for teens. NCL asks employers and federal and state labor investigators to conduct special investigations to make sure that no youth under the age of 18 are working in meat processing.