Is UFCW v. USDA the end or just the beginning of the great line speed debate?


By Dan Flynn, Food Safety News by Marler Clark

May 4, 2021


Seaboard Foods wants to intervene in UFCW v. USDA “to move to stay the effect of the Court’s forthcoming judgment by 10.5 months as to Seaboard, and for the purpose of perfecting an appeal” with a stay pending appeal if necessary.


A federal court in Minnesota in March ruled that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) hadn’t fully assessed how faster line speeds in pork plants affect employee safety. Shortly after the March 31 ruling, USDA notified pork processors that plants running faster than 1,106 hogs per hour should prepare to slow down.


Seaboard says it is “profoundly affected” by the court’s line-speed ruling and is “grateful” for the court’s 90-day pre-judgment stay, but it says to save it from “certain and significant loss” the stay needed to be extended by at least another 10.5 months.


UFCW v. USDA involves several local unions and the federal government. Seaboard’s intervention would add private sector interests into the litigation. The Kansas-based Seaboard argues that its vertically integrated supply chain is processing the hog supply that was put into development with reliance on FSIS’s now-vacated line speed provisions.


The UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) affiliated local unions argue that worker safety is at risk from high line speeds, while processors say an efficient line speed is based on current staffing and other issues. And, line speed can make the difference between a 5- or 6-day work week.


Seaboard’s request to intervene in the lawsuit includes a history of the litigation: