Poultry Workers and Supporters Rally in Harrisonburg

Nov 23, 2016

WMRA's Jessie Knadler attended Tuesday's rally of poultry workers, and filed this report.

Two days before Americans stuff themselves on turkey, about 40 poultry workers and community supporters gathered in downtown Harrisonburg to protest what they call unsafe working conditions and inhumane treatment at poultry plants around Rockingham County.  

PROTESTERS: Justice for the poultry workers!

They marched from Liberty Park to George’s poultry processing facility several blocks away. George’s is one of many plants in the area that workers say has subpar labor standards. Employees at the plant looked on as protesters chanted.

PROTESTERS:  We are with you! We are with you!

Among the complaints: Unsafe line speeds, particularly during the run up to the holidays when employees are expected to process up to 50 birds per minute. Workplace injuries are common in the poultry industry but workers say they’re routinely denied access to medical benefits, worker’s compensation, even bathroom breaks.

A manager eventually emerged from the front office and told people to move along. Nobody moved. A few rally organizers were allowed inside to deliver a message to management.

GUILLERMO ZELAYA:  Poultry workers [have come to us and] say they want a voice at work, they want safe working conditions and they want a living wage.

Guillermo Zelaya helped organize the rally.

ZELAYA:   It’s time the community stands up and says, hey, this is happening in our community, to our people.

Two squad cars eventually pulled up. Crowds slowly began to disperse. A press conference was scheduled for later that afternoon.