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Union Calls New Trump Admin. Meatpacking Fine a “Slap on the Wrist” After Plant Failed to Protect Workers, With Multiple Deaths and Nearly 1,300 Worker Infections

Nationwide: 122 Meatpacking Worker Deaths, Over 18,000 Workers Infected or Exposed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents 1.3 million workers in meatpacking plants and other essential businesses, condemned the new U.S. Department of Labor fine on Smithfield Foods as completely insufficient in the wake of the company’s failure to protect meatpacking workers at its Sioux Falls, South Dakota which reported nearly 1,300 COVID-19 infections and at least four deaths among its employees. As the union for Smithfield workers at this plant, UFCW called today’s fine by the Trump Administration insulting and a slap on the wrist that will do nothing to help those already infected or prevent future worker deaths.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone​ released the following statement:

“How much is the health, safety, and life of an essential worker worth? Based on the actions of the Trump Administration, clearly not much. This so-called ‘fine’ is a slap on the wrist for Smithfield, and a slap in the face of the thousands of American meatpacking workers who have been putting their lives on the line to help feed America since the beginning of this pandemic.

“OSHA has been asleep at the switch throughout this pandemic and this is just the latest example of the agency failing to do their job and take responsibility for worker safety. If we truly care about protecting workers and our nation’s food supply during this pandemic, the federal government must take action, beginning with an enforceable national safety standard, increased access to PPE and COVID-19 testing, and rigorous proactive inspections.

“Smithfield is a multi-billion-dollar corporation that failed to protect its workers, with multiple deaths and more than a thousand infections on their watch. This response by OSHA confirms that the company will not face any real consequences. The failure by the Trump Administration to hold Smithfield accountable makes clear that this White House cares more about industry profits than protecting America’s essential workers. Our country’s meatpacking workers, and the millions of American they serve, deserve and expect better from those sworn to protect us.”

Background:

As the largest North American meatpacking union, UFCW has been a leading national voice in the call to protect meatpacking workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UFCW represents employees at the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota that reported at least 1,294 meatpacking worker infections and four worker deaths from COVID-19. UFCW sounded the alarm early in the pandemic about the risks these workers faced, calling from for action from public officials, and company leaders to provide the critical safety equipment and measures needed to protect employees as the virus devastated meatpacking plants across the country.

UFCW confirmed today that there have already been at least 122 meatpacking worker deaths and over 18,000 meatpacking workers infected or exposed to COVID-19. These numbers only include workers represented by UFCW. As the New York Times reported, many meatpacking companies have refused to release internal numbers on worker deaths and infections, meaning that total number of meatpacking workers impacted by the virus is likely much higher that current public figures.

Meatpacking workers at Smithfield’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant are members of UFCW Local 304A.

UFCW International is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org.