Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents 1.3 million workers in meatpacking plants across North America, condemned a new agreement just announced by the U.S. Department of Labor and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), the lobbying arm of the meat and poultry industry. UFCW called the pact a shameless corporate giveaway giving the industry even more power to police itself and ignore safety measures essential to protecting meatpacking workers who are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:
“This deal is an outrage, and it makes it clear that the Trump Administration does not care at all about protecting the brave meatpacking workers helping feed American families. Throughout the pandemic, employers have continued to keep workers and the general public in the dark about illness in the plants while trying to shield themselves from any liability for the role they played in the loss of life. It is shocking that the Department of Labor is now giving the meat industry even more power to police itself on worker safety.
“This is a shameless attempt to silence worker voices and give giant corporations direct access to the federal agency that is supposed to be in charge of oversight and accountability. Allowing the meat industry to conduct safety oversight of itself is dangerous for both workers and the safety of the food we eat.
“At a time when thousands of American workers in meatpacking plants have gotten sick and over 100 workers have already died, the White House can no longer ignore the severity of this problem. Americans know our food supply is safe when the workers who produce it are safe and UFCW continues to demand clear, enforceable standards that would prevent plant shutdowns and, most importantly, protect workers before even more get sick and die.”
As the largest North American meatpacking union, UFCW has been a leading voice in the push to strengthen protections for meatpacking workers throughout the industry who have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic since day one.
UFCW confirmed today that there have already been at least 113 meatpacking worker deaths and over 17,000 meatpacking workers infected or exposed to COVID-19. These numbers only include workers represented by UFCW, and with many meatpacking companies refusing to release internal numbers, it is likely that meatpacking worker deaths and infections are much higher.