Mar-Jac Poultry, Tyson Foods Listed in ‘Dirty Dozen’ Due to Health & Safety Issues
Story by WDAM

PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM)—As part of Workers’ Memorial Week, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) publishes an annual list of employers who put workers and communities at risk due to unsafe practices.

“The latest data show an increase in workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses,” said Jessica E. Martinez, MPH, co-executive director of National COSH. “An increasing number of children are being assigned to dangerous jobs, and the reality of climate change is bringing the risk of extreme heat to both indoor and outdoor workplaces.”

The Dirty Dozen report covers all industries from agriculture to construction, retail to healthcare.

“We release the Dirty Dozen each year to shine a light on what’s going wrong in U.S. workplaces – and to support workers who are joining together to make it right,” explained Martinez.

This year’s Dirty Dozen, in alphabetical order, as reported by the National COSH:

Alabama Department of Corrections:
Forced labor in Alabama prisons disproportionately targets Black men and women.
Workers face hazardous conditions for $2 a day or less.
Ascension: Severe staff cuts have created unsafe conditions for patients and workers at the nation’s largest Catholic healthcare system.
Black Iron/XL Concrete:
One worker died from electrocution.
Another worker lost a thumb at a company with 29 OSHA violations during the past decade.
Costa Farms:
In 2021, a worker died from heat exhaustion at a Costa Farms nursery in Miami.
Two years later, company executives lobbied against a Miami-Dade heat safety ordinance.
In 2024, the Florida legislature banned all local heat protections.
Florence Hardwoods:
16-year-old Michael Shuls was crushed to death inside a stalled conveyor at this lumber mill in northern Wisconsin.
The company had previously been cited for failure to properly lockout and guard machinery.
Mar-Jac Poultry and Onin Staffing: 16-year-old Duvan Pérez was killed at this poultry firm, which has a troubling history of safety violations.
Space X and the Boring Company:
Workers suffered crushed limbs, amputations, chemical burns and a preventable death at companies owned by billionaire Elon Musk.
Workers said Musk is obsessed with speed but disregards safety.
Tyson Foods:
Six workers have died on the job at Tyson since 2019.
Over 140 others have suffered injuries from hazardous ammonia leaks.
Uber and Lyft:
Over 80 mobile app workers have been killed on the job since 2017, most of them working for Uber and Lyft.
Workers of color and immigrants bear the brunt of these dangers.
Valor Security and Investigations:
A New York City firm was indicted for selling fake safety certificates, which endangered workers who never received any training.
Construction worker Ivan Frias – with a “certificate” from Valor but never trained – fell to his death in 2022.
Waffle House: Restaurants in this 24-hour, 365-days-per-year chain “have developed a reputation as a hotbed for violence.”
Walmart: Janikka Perry, pressured to avoid taking sick time, died alone and crying out for help in a Walmart bathroom. Her family and colleagues demand better sick leave policies and protections from workplace violence.
The Dirty Dozen are selected by the National COSH team, with nominations from a network of COSH groups, workers, safety activists, union members, health and safety professionals and academic experts from across the country.

Criteria include the severity of risks to workers; repeat and serious violations of safety standards and applicable laws; the position of a company within its industry and the economy and its ability to influence broader workplace standards, and the presence of a campaign by workers and/or allies to correct health and safety problems.

Cindy Smith, a 29-year employee of Waffle House, said she’s seen a long history of violence with little assistance from the company.

“I’ve been robbed at gunpoint and had someone try to steal my cash register drawer,” said Smith. “Two of my long-time customers have a niece that works at Waffle House. She was shot in the head during an early morning shift and left disabled for the rest of her life.

“These horrible incidents keep happening, but Waffle House has never taken real action to prevent violence, like putting 24-hour security in our restaurants. That’s one of the big things our union is fighting for – better safety for employees and customers.”

The National COSH team releases the Dirty Dozen report during Workers Memorial Week to show solidarity with workers’ rights movements.

Workers Memorial Week is a global event that remembers workers who lost their lives on the job and their families and recognizes those who suffer from occupational injuries and illnesses. The event is marked by worker actions, vigils, and rallies worldwide, focusing on achieving safer working conditions to avoid future preventable tragedies.

At a Workers Memorial Week event last week, 16-year-old Duvan Pérez, who died in July 2023 at Mar-Jac Poultry in Hattiesburg, was remembered in a commemoration service in Washington, D.C.

“This is an exciting and challenging time for U.S. workers,” said Martinez. “It’s exciting to see a renewed interest in joining unions, participating in workers’ centers and connecting with advocacy campaigns. The challenge facing workers fighting for something better is that conditions in U.S. workplaces are getting worse.”