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US Poultry Workers’ $85M Antitrust Settlement Approved

 |  September 12, 2022

Three of the largest US poultry processors have agreed to settle claims by the Justice Department over their alleged longstanding effort to share information about workers in order to drive down compensation. Cargill, Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms have agreed to pay more than $84 million in restitution to workers harmed by the information sharing to resolve civil antitrust lawsuits.

According to DOJ’s civil complaint, for more than 20 years the poultry processors collaborated secretly in determining compensation and other benefits and—directly with one another and indirectly with the help of a data consultant—exchanged detailed, identifiable, current and forward-looking information about employee wages and benefits. DOJ asserted that both the information exchange and direct collaboration constituted independent violations of the Sherman Act.

DOJ alleged harm in the market for primary poultry processing plant employment, a cluster of workers that may perform different tasks for poultry processors but, according to DOJ, have common attributes and skills that separate them from workers outside of poultry processing. In this alleged market, DOJ appears to have measured market shares by determining the relative shares of total jobs in this space employed by the processors and concluded that these processors had more than 90 percent of poultry plant workers in the United States and, in some geographic regions, at least 80 percent of these types of jobs.

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