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June 10, 2020

Iowa Meatpacking Unions Call on Gov. Reynolds, State Leaders to Reject Bill Exempting Businesses from COVID-19 Worker Safety Requirements

Union for Thousands of Iowa Meatpacking Workers Call for Defeat of State Legislation Waiving Business Liability for Protecting Workers Threatened by Coronavirus

DES MOINES, IA — Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local Unions 230, 431, 617, 440, 1149, 6 and 222 – which represents approximately 15,000 Iowa meatpacking workers across the state – announced its strong opposition to new state legislation that would offer coronavirus liability waivers to irresponsible companies and allow them to ignore critical worker safety issues. 

UFCW Local Unions 230, 431, 617, 440, 1149, 6 and 222 released the following joint statement from their presidents:

“Iowa meatpacking workers across our state have been putting their lives on the line every day to ensure that our families have the food we need during this pandemic. Keeping our communities safe and food supply secure starts with protecting these brave frontline workers. 

“With Iowa meatpacking workers continuing to die and become infected by COVID-19 every week, it is shocking to see state leaders push such a dangerous bill that will allow giant companies to abandon their responsibility to keep these Iowa workers safe. This legislation is a threat not only to these workers, but to our food supply and the millions of Iowa families these workers proudly serve. Governor Reynolds and state legislators must immediately reject this corporate giveaway and put the safety of hardworking Iowa families first above all else.” 

These presidents: Steve Sines of Local 230, Bob Waters of Local 431, Gunther Anderson of Local 617, Leo Kanne of Local 440, Roger Kail of Local 1149,  and Don Von Bank of Local 6 together represent tens of thousands of Iowa workers. 

“For 31 years, I’ve proudly worked in Marshalltown to help families across Iowa put food on the table. This has always been a good job that’s helped me support my family, but with the coronavirus outbreak, I worry every day about getting sick. The last thing we need is a law that gives companies a free pass to ignore safety at a time when we need the strongest worker protections possible,” said Sherry Hart, a member of Local 1149 who works at JBS. “Our leaders should be standing up for Iowa meatpacking workers, not covering for big companies that fail to keep their employees from getting sick.”

“As long as Iowa meatpacking workers like me are getting sick and coronavirus continues to put us at risk, our leaders should be focused on keeping us and our communities safe. I was shocked when I heard that Governor Reynolds is considering letting companies off the hook for protecting workers,” said Memori Cleveland, a member of Local 222 who works at Seaboard Triumph in Sioux City. “In a crisis like this, our families deserve better.”

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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.