Tuesday, April 29th – Trump is putting workers’ lives at risk in the interest of protecting massive food corporations’ profits.
President Donald Trump announced that he will use the Defense Production Act to declare meat-processing plants “essential infrastructure,” forcing beef, egg, poultry and pork plants to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across the country at least 6,500 meat processing employees have been impacted by the virus, meaning they are either sick or in isolation. A reported 20 food processing workers have died as a result of being exposed to COVID-19 on the job.
Sending workers back into unsafe workplaces without adequate protection is completely unacceptable and will lead to more worker illness and worker deaths. Workers’ health must be a priority over the profits of large food corporations.
In 2019 the Trump administration and USDA already began waiving regulations limiting meat-processing line speeds, increasing the risk of severe injury, and have continued to grant these waivers as the pandemic rages on.
Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) has also failed to ensure workers are protected from the virus and its impacts, refusing to issue mandatory health and safety standards for employers that require companies to protect frontline food chain workers and other workers at risk. With the refusal to issue Emergency Temporary Standards, OSHA has allowed companies to continue to evade responsibility for worker deaths and exposure to illness.
“Sending meatpacking workers back to work without protections and mandatory standards is sending workers to die or to get sick,” says Axel Fuentes of the Rural Community Workers Alliance (RCWA). RCWA has filed a lawsuit against a Smithfield plant in an effort to force the company to protect workers’ health and safety. “If we have to fight in courts to make only one plant to provide safety equipment to workers, can you imagine what will be required to compel other employers to act?”
The Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) is an alliance of 33 food worker organizations in the food supply chain. “We call on our elected leaders to take steps to protect the health and safety of food processing workers over profits,” says Suzanne Adely, FCWA Co-Director. “We demand that OSHA immediately issue a strong and enforceable Emergency Temporary Standard, and call on Congress to compel OSHA to act in the face of this health and safety and public health emergency.”