President Donald Trump signed an executive order on April 28 mandating meatpacking and poultry plants remain open.
But the meatpackers union said without strict enforcement of protective protocols for front-line workers, employees remain in danger.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers in the U.S., sent a letter to government officials earlier this month to make sure coronavirus protocols were implemented at the nation’s meatpacking and poultry plants.
According to UFCW, the CDC and OSHA issued guidelines on April 26 for meatpacking and poultry workers.
After Trump signed the executive order, on April 29, UFCW wrote another letter to the National Governors Association as well as every state’s governor, calling on them to protect meatpacking and poultry workers during the coronavirus outbreak. In the new letter to governors, UFCW calls the guidelines a step in the right direction but asks governors to both enforce those guidelines and issue additional protective measures.
“Meatpacking and poultry workers have been working tirelessly through this health crisis so that millions of Americans continue to have access to the food they need. President Trump’s executive order now mandates that they continue to do so, without any language that ensures their safety,” said Marc Perrone, international president of UFCW in a release. “Let me be clear, the best way to protect America’s food supply, to keep these plants open, is to protect America’s meatpacking workers.”
The UFCW recommends providing each front-line worker with N95 masks for every shift, testing, mandatory paid quarantine, protection from retaliation and physical distancing.
“Every governor has the ability to take key steps and additional safety actions to protect these workers and it is imperative that they do so immediately,” Perrone said in a release. “To protect our food supply and workers, strong, enforceable safety standards must be implemented in every meatpacking plant.”