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Union Representing 250,000 Meatpacking Workers Calls for Industry to Strengthen Safety and Transparency, Support First Responder Status for These Workers on Frontlines

Union Announces New Numbers on Increase in Meatpacking Worker Deaths and Plant Closures During Coronavirus Outbreak  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest meatpacking union, called on Tyson and all companies in the industry to make good on the promise of the Tyson New York Times advertisement with immediate action to protect these frontline workers across the country. UFCW is calling on the meatpacking industry to strengthen transparency on plant safety and immediately join the union in calling for these workers to be designated as first responders during the outbreak.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s meatpacking workers and our nation’s food supply are in greater danger every day that companies and leaders fail to act during this outbreak. It is clear that our food supply chain is threatened, and that is why our country’s elected and corporate leaders must act now.

“Tyson and every company across this vital industry, must immediately join with UFCW in calling for federal and state elected leaders to designate these frontline workers as first responders. Temporary first responder status ensures these workers have priority access to the COVID-19 testing and protective equipment they need to continue doing these essential jobs. Our federal leaders must enforce clear guidelines to ensure every employer lives up to the high safety standards these workers deserve and the American people expect.

“Meatpacking companies must increase transparency around their safety efforts to ensure that meatpacking workers, elected leaders, and the communities they serve know exactly what steps they are taking to keep workers safe and our food supply secure. Simply put, given the nature of this COVID-19 crisis, words are not enough. American workers and families across the country cannot wait any longer. Our elected leaders and companies across the industry must act now.”

Background:

In the last week, 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, including: (1) increased worker testing, (2) priority access to PPE, (3) halting line speed waivers, (4) mandating social distancing, and (5) isolating workers with symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19.

UFCW recently released new updates on the serious and deadly impact of the Covid-19 virus on meatpacking plants across the country, but those numbers have increased in recent days.

Today, new internal UFCW estimates have confirmed 20 worker deaths in meatpacking and food processing. In addition, at least 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers have been directly impacted by the virus. Those directly impacted include individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, or have been hospitalized, and/or are symptomatic.

UFCW announced today that new estimates show 22 meatpacking plants have closed – including union and non-union plants – at some point in the past two months. These closures have resulted in over 35,000 workers impacted and a 25 percent reduction in pork slaughter capacity as well as a 10 percent reduction in beef slaughter capacity.

The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 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 www.ufcw.org