Several labor unions and their affiliated international union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), have filed a lawsuit urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to “set aside a waiver program” for exceeding maximum line speeds on the grounds that FSIS adopted the program without adhering to procedures set forth in the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). U. Food & Comm. Workers Union, Local No. 227 v. USDA, No. 20-2045 (D.D.C., filed July 28, 2020). Under a 2014 rule, FSIS allows poultry plants to process birds at a rate of 140 birds per minute, but a 2018 waiver program allowing some plants to process up to 175 birds per minute has granted waivers to “nearly 43 percent of all plants subject to that regulation,” according to the complaint.

“In adopting the new waiver program, FSIS ignored concerns—raised by plaintiff UFCW and others—that increasing line speeds at poultry processing plants would increase the risk of injury to workers on the line,” the plaintiffs argue. “Instead, the agency asserted that it lacked the legal authority to address worker safety concerns, even as it acknowledged that it had considered and addressed worker safety concerns in its 2014 rulemaking.” For alleged violations of the APA, including the notice-and-comment and arbitrary-and-capricious sections, the plaintiffs seek a declaration that the waiver program was adopted without observance of procedure.

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