Department of Labor fine on JBS Foods for the COVID-19 outbreak at the company’s plant in Greeley, Colorado. UFCW, which represents workers at the plant, called the $15,615 fine insufficient given that the outbreak led to 8 worker deaths and over 200 worker infections.
UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:
“The failure of the federal government to protect American workers and our nation’s food supply has reached new lows. With this latest ‘so-called fine,’ OSHA and the Department of Labor prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they do not care about holding irresponsible corporations accountable for the lives lost or worker safety.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, meatpacking workers and UFCW have led the fight for better personal protective equipment, universal COVID-19 testing, better social distancing in plants, and the real and enforceable health and safety standards needed to keep these facilities safe. We have done our job, and all we have asked is that the federal government do its job and hold irresponsible employers accountable. This ‘so-called fine’ proves that this administration is incapable and unwilling to fulfill its duty to keep workers safe.
“Make no mistake, the Trump administration has once again failed to honor what is its sacred responsibility – protect the American people. Our country’s meatpacking workers and the millions of Americans they serve, deserve and expect better from this administration and the leaders sworn to protect us.”
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 JBS plant in Greeley, Colorado that is the subject of the latest fine. The union also represents workers at the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the focus of another Trump Administration fine this week. UFCW sounded the alarm early in the pandemic about the risks these workers faced, calling 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.
This week, UFCW confirmed 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 the JBS Foods Greeley, Colorado plant are members of UFCW Local 7R. Workers at Smithfield’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant are members of UFCW Local 304A.