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Judge orders San Gabriel Valley poultry processing plants to stop using child labor – Orange County Register

A federal judge this week issued a temporary restraining order following an urgent request from the U.S. Department of Labor to stop three San Gabriel Valley poultry processing plants from using “oppressive” child labor.

The order issued Monday, April 1, by U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright II came in response to a Department of Labor lawsuit filed over the weekend that names L&Y Food of El Monte, Moon Poultry d ‘Irwindale and JRC Culinary Group of Monterey Park as defendants.

The owner of the three companies, Fu Qian Chen Lu, is also named as a co-defendant.

Wright ordered companies to stop using child labor, provide the Department of Labor with the names, dates of birth and contact information of all workers employed since May 1, 2023, and to refrain from shipping poultry produced by minors.

Last month, investigators from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division executed a search warrant at Moon Poultry, where they allegedly observed workers under the age of 18 using sharp knives to debone raw poultry at instead of being at school.

A lawyer representing the defendants said in an email Wednesday that the search followed an alleged sting operation in January in which Labor Department officials allegedly allowed a 17-year-old to obtain a job at Moon Poultry under false pretenses by providing a false government-issued ID.

“DOL attorney Sonya Shao did not deny this information,” attorney Gregory Patterson said. “The DOL then ordered this individual to work in a hazardous area of ​​the Moon Poultry facility.”

The undercover operation paralleled a DOL overtime investigation that demanded a multimillion-dollar “posting fee” from the same defendants without any significant evidence of unpaid wages, Patterson said.

“The DOL has cynically used child labor allegations – which it has fabricated – to enhance its bargaining power and attempt to force us into a quick resolution of overtime claims,” he said. added. “The DOL will likely be charged before this is over.”

The DOL declined to comment on Patterson’s allegations.

Despite the search at Moon Poultry, where miners had been working for months, the Department of Labor reported that products continued to be moved out of the facility. Items tainted by “oppressive” child labor are considered “hot goods” and banned from entering the market.

“Defendants have refused to disclose to plaintiff the whereabouts of these hot products and have refused to refrain from shipping them in commerce,” Wright said in granting the restraining order.

Due to the alleged obstruction, Wage and Hour Division investigators have not been able to determine whether the flagship products are in the marketplace.

The Department of Labor seeks shipping information to inform “downstream” buyers that the goods were produced by child labor.

Last month, the agency filed a federal petition to force Lu and his companies to comply with administrative subpoenas and prohibit witness tampering and interference with its investigation.

On the night of January 26, after search warrants were executed at Lu’s companies, management began implementing several job changes that left workers confused, angry and afraid of losing their jobs, the petition states.

Supervisors allegedly told employees that they were putting “a noose around their necks” for speaking to the Department of Labor.

The Department of Labor’s allegations of retaliation against employees are “baseless,” Patterson said in a Feb. 13 letter to Shao.

“Additionally, the government’s actions have already caused significant harm to the entire company and reduced demand for our products,” Patterson said. “This is a prime example of government action doing far more harm than good. »

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