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Protect meatpacking plant workers and our food supply

 


GLADYS GODINEZ

Community Organizer

Center for Rural Affairs

Meatpacking plants across the state have become COVID-19 hotspots, and the struggles faced by the people working inside are apparent and alarming.

Our friends and neighbors are being asked to risk their health, safety and lives without vital protections on the job, which is endangering our food supply and our entire communities. People continue to be asked to work shoulder to shoulder without critical protections and they are getting sicker and sicker as a result.

The spread of COVID-19 in meatpacking communities is happening because meatpacking plants have responded insufficiently to this public health crisis. A lack of safety is leading to plant shutdowns and that is something that we all want to avoid.

For the last month, we have had many conversations with these employees and their family members. Six-foot physical distancing is not happening in most plants on the production floor.

Companies need to implement these key protections consistently across plants without delay: six-foot distancing between workers on the processing floor; paid sick leave, job protection and shutdown pay; appropriate protective equipment, including masks; frequently cleaned worksites; transparency about cases connected to the workplace and information to employees in the languages most prevalent in each worksite; more inspections to ensure worker safety and worker and community health representation on state industry best practice conversations.

We do not have to choose between food production and worker safety. Continued food production depends on worker safety. Companies, as well as state and federal governments, need to step up and offer their essential workers real and meaningful solutions to keep everyone safe and economically secure.

By implementing protections for essential workers, their families and communities, we can help slow the spread of the virus and ensure food production can continue safely.

 

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