In a federal lawsuit, 11 of the major beef and pork producers in the United States are charged with conspiring to lower salaries and benefits on behalf of three meat factory workers.
In the case, which was filed on Friday in federal court in Denver, the producers are accused of breaking the Sherman Antitrust Act by conspiring to keep employees’ compensation rates lower than the market would bear at least since 2014. The petition requests class-action status.
It was brought by two Iowan and one Georgian meat plant employees, but it attempts to speak for hundreds of thousands of other people who have worked in roles ranging from production to slaughter at the 140 plants owned by the businesses.
According to the lawsuit, the facilities collectively generate nearly 80% of the red meat offered to customers in the United States.
These businesses include National Beef Packing Co., Triumph Foods LLC, Seaboard Foods LLC, Cargill Inc., Hormel Foods Corp., American Foods Group LLC, and JBS USA Food Company.
LLC, Iowa Premium LLC, Smithfield Foods Inc., Agri Beef Co., Perdue Farms Inc., and a few of its affiliates.
Cargill denies doing anything improper.
Cargill sets compensation independently to guarantee that it pays fair and competitive rates to employees in each of the company’s operations, a company spokesperson said. “While we cannot speak with detail during the pendency of litigation, Cargill sets compensation independently,” he said.
According to Andrea Staub, a spokesman for Perdue Farms, the business does not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.
Jim Monroe, a spokesman for Smithfield, stated that the business has not yet had an opportunity to evaluate the allegations and has no further comment.
When contacted by phone and email on Wednesday, representatives of the other companies did not immediately respond.
The action, which was brought by attorneys from Hagens Berman, also names as defendants two consulting firms that were said to have assisted the meat producers in exchanging compensation information.
“For the same antitrust behavior, our company has received $195 million in the chicken processing market.
The meat industry’s gravy train comes to a stop right now, the managing partner of the law firm, Steve Berman, declared in a statement Wednesday announcing the case.
According to the lawsuit, the meat producers met in private to negotiate pay and communicated covertly about it to avoid having written records of the discussions.