News Briefs

Cargill meatpacking plant in Kansas part of federal investigation into illegal child labor

By: - February 17, 2023 3:34 pm

A federal investigation found 26 children working in dangerous sanitation jobs at a Cargill meatpacking plant in Dodge City. (Getty Images)

TOPEKA — Federal authorities have fined a cleaning company nearly $400,000 for illegally employing minors and making them work in dangerous conditions at a Dodge City meatpacking plant.

The fine was tied to a U.S. Department of Labor investigation that involved at least 102 children, ages 13-17, at meatpacking plants owned by multiple companies in eight states.

The investigation found 26 children working at the Cargill meatpacking plant in Dodge City. Packers Sanitation Services Inc., which provides cleaning services at the plant, was fined $393,588 for the Dodge City violation.

One of the nation’s largest food safety sanitation companies, PSSI was issued $1,544,076 in penalties overall. 

The Labor Department investigation discovered children working with hazardous chemicals and equipment such as backsaws, brisket saws and head splitters. Others were working overnight shifts, and at least three minors suffered injuries as a result of working for the company.

“The child labor violations in this case were systemic and reached across eight states, and clearly indicate a corporate-wide failure by Packers Sanitation Services at all levels,” said Jessica Looman, principal deputy administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, in a news release. “These children should never have been employed in meatpacking plants, and this can only happen when employers do not take responsibility to prevent child labor violations from occurring in the first place.”

The investigation into the sanitation company began in August 2022. In November, a complaint was filed in Nebraska based on evidence the company had employed at least 31 children to clean dangerous powered equipment during overnight shifts.

Violations were found at 13 plants in Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee and Texas.

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.