By Neal Tepel
Washington DC – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) – is opposed to the re-opening of 14 meatpacking plants mandated to open by President Trump’s executive order. These operations continue without adequate procedures to ensure worker safety. UFCW has raised health and safety concerns that are affecting employees and risking the food supply.
The re-opened meatpacking plants are located in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin. The UFCW is investigating the many complaints they are receiving from workers across the country. The union has confirmed at least 30 meatpacking worker deaths. In addition, at least 30 meatpacking facilities have shut at some point in the past two months. These closures have resulted in over 45,000 workers impacted and a 40 percent reduction in pork slaughter capacity as well as a 25 percent reduction in beef.
“America’s meatpacking workers are putting their lives on the line every day to make sure our families have the food they need during this pandemic. Meatpacking plants did not close because anyone wants them to close. These plants closed because at least 30 workers died and more than 10,000 workers have been infected or exposed to COVID-19,” said UFCW President Mark Perrone.
“The rush by the Trump Administration to re-open 14 meatpacking plants without the urgent safety improvements needed is a reckless move that will put American lives at risk and further endanger the long-term security of our nation’s food supply,” Continued Perrone.
UFCW sent a letter to Vice President Pence urgently calling for the White House Coronavirus Task Force to prioritize five safety actions targeted toward the meatpacking industry. This includes increasing worker testing, prioritizing access to PPE, halting line speed waivers, mandating social distancing, and isolating workers with symptoms or those that test positive for COVID-19.
“Since the executive order was announced by President Trump, the Administration has failed to take the urgent action needed to enact clear and enforceable safety standards at these meatpacking plants. We are calling on the White House to end the delays and immediately mandate that all meatpacking companies provide the highest level of protective equipment, ensure daily testing is available for all meatpacking workers, enforce physical distancing at all plants, provide full paid sick leave for any workers who are infected, and establish constant monitoring by federal inspectors to ensure these safety standards are enforced. We cannot wait any longer,” concluded President Marc Perrone.