Workers lives at risk, government prioritizes corporate profits

The safety of workers is still in peril during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet the Federal government is forcing meat plants to stay open despite the multiple safety and health concerns raised by workers and health experts. LULAC is gravely concerned that the US government is putting corporate profits ahead of workers’ lives.

“The news that the President will invoke the Defense Production Act to secure the nation’s food supply, instead of mandating OSHA to ensure meat processing plants are safe for workers, sends a clear message about his administration’s priorities: corporate billionaires’ profits are more important than human lives”, denounced LULAC President Domingo García.

In a press release, García also issued a strong statement advocating for the wellbeing of essential workers in the meatpacking industry, many of whom are Hispanic:

Thousands of essential workers in meat processing plants are sick with COVID-19, and many have died because of the Trump Administration, and the governors and health officials where these plants are located, who failed to protect them despite many calls for help. LULAC filed complaints with OSHA over three weeks ago asking for the agency to enforce the safety of these essential workers, and we’ve received no response to date. We’ve spoken to CEOs and union leaders to get voluntary testing for all workers, but that still hasn’t occurred. As dozens of plants are closing and workers like Saul Sanchez of Greeley, Colorado, are dying, the Administration’s decision to force essential workers to risk their lives so pork chops can keep coming to the White House is wrong and immoral.

To confront the gross negligence of the meat corporations and government officials from both political parties, LULAC is calling for ‘Meatless May Mondays.’ We are asking our community of 60 million members, and the entire country, to stand with essential workers and not purchase or consume any meat products once a week to highlight the need for protections for these workers. Until the meat industry, federal and state governments protect the lives of essential workers at all meat processing facilities in a federally mandated and verifiable manner, LULAC will call for boycotts of meat products. We will demand that all plants be closed for a least a week to disinfect, provide necessary PPE and slow down kill lines to ensure employees’ safety.

Read the full press release here

The safety hazards and issues in the meat-packing industry have been amply covered in the national news:

In response to President Trump’s anticipated executive order to keep meat processing plants open, LULAC is calling for the following:

  • Slow meat processing lines so workers can socially distance by at least six feet, per CDC guidelines, and breathe effectively in their PPE masks;
  • Paid sick leave, so workers do not have to work while sick;
  • Full healthcare coverage for all workers who fall ill, including hospitalization, if needed;
  • Testing all workers for COVID-19, even those who are asymptomatic;
  • Grant all undocumented workers and refugees working at these facilities TPS to secure their legal standing in the U.S.;
  • Expand rest breaks and maintain hazard pay after May 30;
  • Provide safety information in different languages for immigrant workers.