Washington, DC – The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has called on the White House Coronavirus Task Force to offer more protections for meatpacking and food processing workers.
In a letter to Vice President Pence, the UFCW urged the task force to take more safety actions for these essential workers. The UFCW cited 10 meatpacking workers and three food processing employees that have died. Over 5,000 meatpackers and 1,500 food processors have been directly impacted by COVID-19, including those that have tested positive for the virus. The UFCW called for increased worker testing, access to PPE, a halt of line speed waivers, mandated social distancing, and the isolation of workers with COVID-19 symptoms or those that have tested positive.
“Across this country, we are seeing the impact when the government fails to take steps to protect these essential workers,” Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food & Commercial Workers, said in a statement.
“It needs to both provide testing and protective equipment and issue clear and direct safety guidelines that companies can and must enforce. This is not just about whether we will have enough beef, chicken, and pork to feed our families. It is – for these workers – a matter of life and death,” continued President Perrone.
As more meat processing plants close because of the growing numbers of coronavirus cases among employees, a meat shortage is developing. There has been a 25% reduction in pork processing and a 10% reduction in beef capacity because of COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has caused 13 plants to close in the last two months, with 24,500 workers impacted.
“America’s food processing and meatpacking workers are in extreme danger, and our nation’s food supply faces a direct threat from the coronavirus outbreak,” Perrone said.
“If workers in these plants are as essential as our elected leaders say, then it’s about time that our elected leaders provide them with the essential protections they need. Make no mistake, without national safety standards to protect these workers from the coronavirus – more lives will be lost, more workers will be exposed, and our food supply will face jeopardy,” he added