MORGANTON, N.C. - One of Morganton's largest employers is coming under fire because of the number of bathroom breaks it gives employees.
Organizers of a protest Monday outside Case Farms claim some workers are wearing diapers because they can't use the restroom when needed.
Current workers did not come out of the plant for fear of retaliation.
The chicken-processing plant has been in Morganton for years, not far from downtown.
Along the sidewalk out front, dozens of people protested for the people working inside Case Farms over bathroom breaks.
The protesters demanded changes be made and want to have a sit-down meeting with managers.
"They are not getting breaks when you have to go to the bathroom,” said Hunter Ogletree, of the Western North Carolina Workers Center. “People are compelled to wear diapers when they come to work because they are not able to go to the bathroom when they need to go."
Channel 9 reporter Dave Faherty was with the group as they took a letter up the main walkway leading to the plant only to be turned back by a security guard and ordered to stay off the property.
Former workers are speaking up for those inside who describe the conditions.
They said sometimes they were on the production line for two and half hours before getting a 10-minute break to use the bathroom. If they step off the line before then, they said they were written up.
"It was very sad because they don't give access to go to the bathroom when workers have the biological need to go to the bathroom,” said Irma Mato, a former worker. "Her stomach would hurt. Your feet would hurt. You can't move."
The security guard did take the letter asking for a closed-door meeting next month at a local church.
The group is waiting for a response from the company.
"We want them to respect labor and human rights, but if they don't, then we have to escalate the actions,” said Martha Ojeda, of Interfaith Worker Justice.
Channel 9 asked the organizers what happens if they don't get the meeting and if a strike was possible. They said that would be up to the workers.
Case Farms released this statement:
"Case Farms has recently been targeted by the Western North Carolina Workers Center and Interfaith Worker Justice at the Morganton division regarding working conditions. We respectfully disagree with the allegations made by the aforementioned parties."
"We at Case Farms are grateful to have such hard-working, dedicated and loyal employees as the backbone of our company. While we've always been committed to the success and welfare of our employees, we continually seek ways to make improvements."
"We strive to create a work culture and environment in which our employees feel valued and safe. We take any employee concern seriously. Case Farms has devoted significant time and resources to ensure work place successes for our employees, especially as it concerns health and safety standards in our facilities."
"Some of the initiatives and practices Case Farms already has in place include:
• Holding weekly employee round table discussions to raise and address any and all
employee issues, including bathroom breaks.
• Corporate safety structure and procedures, including training and retraining methods for
• Utilization of ProcessMAP's integrated health and safety software to aid in reporting
within OSHA's workplace safety standards.
• Utilization of Alchemy software for safety trainings in many areas throughout our plants
and necessary documentation for OSHA on all employee training.
"We believe if we treat our employees with respect and dignity and listen and address their
concerns and issues, we will continue to be successful."
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