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WASHINGTON, D.C.–The unions representing chicken processing workers in six states, including Indiana, have sued the USDA over faster line speeds. The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Washington, D.C., says the Dept. of Agriculture is wrong to allow more chickens to be slaughtered because it makes it unsafe for workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“America’s poultry workers have been on the front lines of this pandemic since day one, putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure our families have the food we need during this crisis,” said United Food and Commercial Workers International President Marc Perrone.

“As COVID-19 continues to infect thousands of meatpacking workers, it is stunning that USDA is further endangering these workers by allowing poultry companies to increase line speeds to dangerous new levels that increase the risk of injury and make social distancing next to impossible.”

Workers represented in the suit are in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri.

Regulations adopted in 2014 allow for the processing of 140 birds per minute. The waivers allow the plants to slaughter, defeather and process up to 175 birds per minute.

Some of the local unions represented in the suit contend that an average of eight workers per year die on the job in chicken processing plants and injuries happen on a regular basis.

The USDA has not commented, and in a statement says it does not comment on pending lawsuits.