May 19, 2020
New Trump Guestworker Policy Exploits Coronavirus Outbreak, Threatens Safety of Workers & American Jobs
America’s Largest Meatpacking Union, with 250,000 Workers Across the Industry, Condemns New H-2B Visa Policy That Will Endanger Workers, American Jobs & U.S. Food Supply
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million members, condemned a new U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy removing limitations on the H-2B program for workers who are deemed essential to the food supply chain during the coronavirus outbreak. The new policy will make it easier for companies to eliminate American jobs and replace current employees with guest workers.
UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:
“America’s brave meatpacking workers are not replaceable. They are putting their lives on the line every day, with dozens dying and over 10,000 infected, to make sure millions of Americans have the food they need during this deadly outbreak.
“When the Trump Administration forced meatpacking plants to reopen, but failed to enforce the strong safety standards needed, it put more American workers at risk. This new policy is a betrayal of America’s meatpacking workers, giving companies a free pass to ignore safety and push anyone who gets sick out of a job by replacing them with untrained guest workers.
“America’s food supply depends on our country’s meatpacking workers who have the skills and training needed to keep our food supply chain strong during this pandemic. An American president should be protecting American jobs and the food workers who are keeping our country running, not replacing them or exploiting this crisis to further enrich meatpacking companies.
“At a time when our economy is spiraling and our food supply is already under pressure, this decision is a direct threat to workers and represents a clear and present danger to public health and safety. Our country’s leaders – both Republicans and Democrats – must reject this move and stand up for the American workers helping to feed our families during this crisis.”
This past week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a Temporary Final Rule that will remove limitations on the H-2B program for workers who are deemed “essential to the U.S. food supply chain” and make it easier for employers to obtain guest workers for food manufacturing and processing.
This follows an effort in March 2020 by the National Pork Producers Council to pressure members of Congress and other U.S. Government officials to allow pork producers to hire more guest workers who would displace the hardworking Americans keeping these plants running.
UFCW has been the leading national voice calling for action to increase safety in meatpacking plants to protect workers and keep the U.S. food supply chain secure. In a recent letter to Vice President Pence, UFCW urgently called 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.
The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.
Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.