Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers Act would offer ‘right to refusal’ protections

Meat processing workers could soon have increased protections while working in dangerous conditions if a new bill proposed by legislators becomes law this session.

H.F. 23, sponsored by Rep. Dan Wolgamott (DFL-St. Cloud), also known as the Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Workers Act, would expand existing Minnesota law to provide, "a meatpacking employee acting in good faith the right to refuse to work under dangerous conditions," while prohibiting workplace discrimination and requiring continued pay for the worker.

The law would also require the commissioner of labor and industry to appoint a meatpacking industry worker rights coordinator as part of the department to provide enforcement authority to inspect, review, and recommend practices and procedures for improving meatpacking operations.

"Meat-processing worker" would be defined as an individual working directly with raw meatpacking products in the meatpacking operation, including independent contractors and those hired by a temp service or staffing agency

FOX 9 previously covered the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) alleging that an investigation uncovered Tony Downs Foods Company hired children to work hazardous jobs at a meat processing facility in southern Minnesota.