Los Angeles chicken kingpins, The Exclusive Poultry, came under fire on December 4th. As told by the Labor Department, the organization levied multiple charges against both of their locations for hiring minors as young as 14 to debone their chicken. When inspectors came, the kids and their work were relocated to bathrooms and closets, where they were expected to hide in silence.
Providing chicken for Aldi and Ralphs Grocery Co., a subsidiary of Kroger Co., the company was responsible for a massive chunk of the West Coast chicken processing. Coming to terms with the Labor Department as a part of the consent decree, they will be shelling out $3.8 million in back wages, as well as paying over $200,000 in fines.
Jessica Looman, administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division said, “The Exclusive Poultry and owner Tony Bran willfully withheld workers’ hard-earned wages, endangered young workers, and retaliated against employees to conceal their wrongdoing.” For her organization though, the work is not over. Instead, they “will continue to work at every level of the industry to prevent employers or retailers from exploiting workers, including children, for profit.”
Company attorney Anthony McClaren told NBC News that the company had only started investigating these claims. They wanted and needed time to investigate but believed that simply settling the case was in the best interests of all parties. He also said that as a result of the lawsuit the company was effectively out of business.
The investigation originated back in 2022 when an adult worker complained about unpaid wages to the Labor Board. Sent to the factory, they saw workers they believed to be ages 14-17, but they ran when confronted. Investigating further, they found their suspicions were correct. They also learned that these kids were deboning chicken all day and working overtime six days a week. Forgoing any education, they were even injured on the clock and returned right back to their station.