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April 28, 2020

UFCW: Trump Order to Keep Meatpacking Plants Open Must Include Immediate Action to Strengthen Coronavirus Testing and Safety Measures

America’s Largest Meatpacking Union Calls on White House to Immediately Increase Worker Testing, Access to Protective Equipment, and Federal Oversight to Ensure the Safety of All U.S. Meatpacking Plants  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest meatpacking union with 250,000 members across the industry, called on President Trump to take immediate action to support his new order that all meatpacking plants remain open during the coronavirus outbreak.  

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:  

“To protect America’s food supply, America’s meatpacking workers must be protected. The reality is that these workers are putting their lives on the line every day to keep our country fed during this deadly outbreak, and at least 20 meatpacking workers have tragically died from coronavirus while more than 5,000 workers have been hospitalized or are showing symptoms. For the sake of all our families, we must prioritize the safety and security of these workers.  

“While we share the concern over the food supply, today’s executive order to force meatpacking plants to stay open must put the safety of our country’s meatpacking workers first. Simply put, we cannot have a secure food supply without the safety of these workers. We urge the Administration to immediately enact clear and enforceable safety standards that compel all meatpacking companies to provide the highest level of protective equipment through access to the federal stockpile of PPE, ensure daily testing is available for workers and their communities, enforce physical distancing at all plants, and provide full paid sick leave for any workers who are infected. Additionally, to protect the food supply and ensure these safety standards for workers are enforced, these plants must be constantly monitored by federal inspectors and workers must have access to representation to ensure their rights are not violated. 

“All of our country’s elected leaders – federal and state – must work together to ensure that we keep these essential workers safe and our country’s food supply secure.” 

Background 

In the last week, UFCW sent a letter to Vice President Pence urgently calling 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. 

Today, new internal UFCW estimates have confirmed 20 worker deaths in meatpacking and food processing. In addition, at least 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers have been directly impacted by the virus. Those directly impacted include individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, or have been hospitalized, and/or are symptomatic. 

UFCW announced today that new estimates show 22 meatpacking plants have closed including union and non-union plants at some point in the past two months. These closures have resulted in over 35,000 workers impacted and a 25 percent reduction in pork slaughter capacity as well as a 10 percent reduction in beef slaughter capacity

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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 healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

 

April 28, 2020

New coronavirus report reveals 72 deaths, 5,000 directly impacted among UFCW membership

Today, on Workers Memorial Day, the UFCW released a new update on the growing number of frontline workers who have been exposed, sick, and died from COVID-19. As these numbers continue to rise, we are calling on our country’s leaders to take immediate action.

UFCW Local 338 members at A&J Foodtown in Bellerose took two minutes of reflection this Workers Memorial Day to honor those lost serving their community during the COVID-19 crisis throughout the country.

According to the UFCW’s internal reports, there have been at least 72 worker deaths and 5,322 workers directly impacted among the UFCW’s 1.3 million members who work in grocery, retail, pharmacy, meatpacking, and other essential industries.

Those directly impacted include workers who tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, or have been hospitalized, and/or are symptomatic.

“These workers never signed up to be first responders in an emergency, but that is exactly what they are now and they need protections immediately before more lives are needlessly lost,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “The human cost to America’s food, retail, and commercial workers is real and growing.”

“As we remember all of America’s brave frontline workers, across every industry, who have died from COVID-19, we are calling on all of our country’s leaders in the White House, in Congress, and states across the country to strengthen safety standards and take immediate action to protect the millions of workers who are keeping our communities strong throughout the crisis.”

April 28, 2020

UFCW Releases Statement on Workers Memorial Day & Announces Worker Deaths from Coronavirus 

America’s Largest Retail & Food Union Announces 72 Worker Deaths in Grocery, Retail, Meatpacking, and Other Industries; and Over 5,000 Workers Directly Impacted by Coronavirus During Outbreak

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million members in grocery stores, pharmacies, meatpacking plants, and other essential businesses, released a new update on the growing number of frontline workers who have been exposed, sick, and died from COVID-19.

According to the UFCW’s internal reports, which were released on Workers Memorial Day, there have been at least 72 worker deaths and 5,322 workers directly impacted among UFCW members. This covers grocery, retail, pharmacy, meatpacking, and other essential industries and those directly impacted include workers who tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, or have been hospitalized, and/or are symptomatic.

On Workers Memorial Day, UFCW is calling on America’s elected and corporate leaders, as well as American shoppers, to take immediate steps to protect these workers before more lives are lost.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s frontline workers in grocery stores, pharmacies, meatpacking plants, and many other essential businesses are putting their lives on the line every day to ensure families have the food and medicine they need to stay safe during this crisis. These workers never signed up to be first responders in an emergency, but that is exactly what they are now and they need protections immediately before more lives are needlessly lost.

“The human cost to America’s food, retail, and commercial workers is real and growing. From grocery stores to meatpacking plants, from senior care facilities to pharmacies, the impact on workers’ lives from this coronavirus is beyond tragic – and this crisis must be stopped before it gets worse.

“As we remember all of America’s brave frontline workers, across every industry, who have died from COVID-19, we are calling on all of our country’s leaders in the White House, in Congress, and states across the country to strengthen safety standards and take immediate action to protect the millions of workers who are keeping our communities strong throughout the crisis. American lives are on the line. We cannot wait any longer. We need action now.”

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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 healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

April 28, 2020

Everything You Need to Know About Masks

Masks, both medical-grade and home-made, can be a powerful tool for protecting yourself and those around you during COVID-19, but the truth is masks only work if we ALL wear them. That’s why the UFCW is calling on employers to provide masks to workers that comply with CDC guidelines and asking all customers to not shop without one.


Why should I wear a mask?

When people talk, laugh, cough, sneeze, or even just breath, tiny droplets of water are released into the air, which can carry the virus. If you cough or sneeze into a homemade cloth mask, the fabric is going to capture at least some of the virus-carrying droplets before they become airborne.

That’s why it is especially important to wear them in places like the grocery store or the pharmacy where hundreds or thousands of people are passing through each day. When you have that many people in one place, even an imperfect solution is going to help dramatically reduce the number of germs circulating and reduce the chances of someone getting sick. Because masks do not always prevent you from breathing in the virus, it is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread.


What are the best materials to use when making a mask?

The tighter the weave on fabric, the more it restricts the flow of air, which is good for blocking droplets, but can make it more difficult to breath. According to a study by Cambridge University researchers, several suitable fabrics can be used to make face masks at home.

If you are using materials you have around the house, cotton (from either an old t-shirt or a bandana), is a good choice but requires layering – preferably 2-4 times. If you have other materials such as quilter’s fabric, flannel, or bedsheets with a high thread count, these materials are even more effective at blocking particles.


Layering and Breathability

When layering your materials, you want to make sure the mask is still breathable while providing good filtration. When testing your mask, you’ll want to make sure you can breathe comfortably through your nose – through the material and not just in and out the sides.

To make sure the fabric isn’t too porous, the Wake Forest research team suggests holding the layered fabric up to a light to see how much shines through. If you can see a bright light clearly, you’ll need to choose a different fabric.


Creating Your Mask

The CDC has posted multiple patterns for creating your own mask at home. Don’t know how to sew? Don’t worry! They’ve got you covered too. No mask pattern has been proven more effective than the other – as long as you make sure it covers your nose, is secure on either side of your face, and fits under your chin.

 


Removing Your Face Mask

Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing your mask. Be sure to wash hands immediately after removing – as well as before you put it on.


Washing Your Face Mask

Face masks should be washed regularly and after each use. Just your standard washing machine and detergent should suffice in properly washing your new creation. If that is not accessible, hot water and soap work just fine as well!

Take the Pledge to #ShopSmart

 

April 28, 2020

UFCW: Tyson and All Meatpacking Companies Must Act Immediately to Protect American Workers & Food Supply

Union Representing 250,000 Meatpacking Workers Calls for Industry to Strengthen Safety and Transparency, Support First Responder Status for These Workers on Frontlines

Union Announces New Numbers on Increase in Meatpacking Worker Deaths and Plant Closures During Coronavirus Outbreak  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest meatpacking union, called on Tyson and all companies in the industry to make good on the promise of the Tyson New York Times advertisement with immediate action to protect these frontline workers across the country. UFCW is calling on the meatpacking industry to strengthen transparency on plant safety and immediately join the union in calling for these workers to be designated as first responders during the outbreak.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s meatpacking workers and our nation’s food supply are in greater danger every day that companies and leaders fail to act during this outbreak. It is clear that our food supply chain is threatened, and that is why our country’s elected and corporate leaders must act now.

“Tyson and every company across this vital industry, must immediately join with UFCW in calling for federal and state elected leaders to designate these frontline workers as first responders. Temporary first responder status ensures these workers have priority access to the COVID-19 testing and protective equipment they need to continue doing these essential jobs. Our federal leaders must enforce clear guidelines to ensure every employer lives up to the high safety standards these workers deserve and the American people expect.

“Meatpacking companies must increase transparency around their safety efforts to ensure that meatpacking workers, elected leaders, and the communities they serve know exactly what steps they are taking to keep workers safe and our food supply secure. Simply put, given the nature of this COVID-19 crisis, words are not enough. American workers and families across the country cannot wait any longer. Our elected leaders and companies across the industry must act now.”


Background:

In the last week, UFCW sent a letter to Vice President Pence 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.

UFCW recently released new updates on the serious and deadly impact of the Covid-19 virus on meatpacking plants across the country, but those numbers have increased in recent days.

Today, new internal UFCW estimates have confirmed 20 worker deaths in meatpacking and food processing. In addition, at least 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers have been directly impacted by the virus. Those directly impacted include individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, or have been hospitalized, and/or are symptomatic.

UFCW announced today that new estimates show 22 meatpacking plants have closed – including union and non-union plants – at some point in the past two months. These closures have resulted in over 35,000 workers impacted and a 25 percent reduction in pork slaughter capacity as well as a 10 percent reduction in beef slaughter capacity.

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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 healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

 

April 27, 2020

Stop & Shop and UFCW Issue Joint Statement Calling For Grocery Workers To Be Classified As First Responders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Stop & Shop and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) issued a joint statement calling on federal and state governments to designate associates at grocery stores as “extended first responders” or “emergency personnel.”

Stop & Shop and UFCW additionally announced that a 10 percent increase in pay for union hourly store associates would be extended through May 30. Stop & Shop and UFCW first announced the pay increase on March 22, along with flexible hours for associates and up to two weeks of additional paid sick leave for associates required to quarantine by government authorities or by the company.

Stop & Shop President Gordon Reid and UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Stop & Shop workers, who are also UFCW members, across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York have worked to make sure that families have the food and groceries they need during these difficult times. Make no mistake, Stop & Shop associates are essential workers and they deserve essential protections.

“Stop & Shop and UFCW have worked together to provide these workers with benefits and protections during this health crisis, including emergency pay raises, additional paid sick leave, and access to KN95 masks and face shields, but even more can be done for these workers.

“We are urgently requesting our nation’s state and federal leaders temporarily designate these workers as first responders or emergency personnel. This critical status would help ensure our state’s essential grocery workers have priority access to testing, emergency childcare, and other protections to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy.

“For the sake of workers, their families, and our nation’s food supply, this action will provide grocery workers with the vital protections they deserve.”

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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 healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

April 26, 2020

#ShopSmart Campaign Urges Shoppers to Help Keep America’s Grocery Workers Safe & Grocery Stores Open

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Runs Full-Page New York Times Ad Highlighting New Initiative Calling on Shoppers to Help Stop Spread of the Coronavirus by Shopping Smart 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union, highlighted its national safety initiative entitled, #ShopSmart, to help keep grocery stores open for all and to take three easy steps to keep grocery workers safe from the coronavirus.

As part of the #Shop Smart national safety initiative, the UFCW has launched a national media campaign that includes television ads running in eight cities and 21 media markets, a social media advertising effort, and a full-page advertisement in the New York Times that will emphasize the three steps America’s shoppers must take to help protect the more than one million grocery workers who are working tirelessly to protect our nation’s food supply.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“To keep our grocery workers safe and grocery stores open for all, it is essential that Americans #ShopSmart and take easy steps to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. All we are asking is that shoppers take these easy safety steps – beginning with always wearing a mask – to help protect these essential grocery workers and make sure that grocery stores continue to be open and a safe place to shop for all of our families. Working together, we can do this, but only if all Americans realize the power that each of us has to fight this virus.”

Today’s full-page advertisement in the New York Times follows the ongoing six-figure national #Shop Smart media campaign highlighted by a new PSA-style commercial that is airing nationally in 21 media markets across 8 states, including the major media markets of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C.


Background:

The #Shop Smart New York Times ad can be viewed here, and the text is included below.

SAVE LIVES, SHOP SMART

During this time of national crisis, over one million union and non-union grocery workers are working hard every single day to provide the food and groceries that America’s families depend on.

These are essential jobs performed by amazing men and women.

These are good jobs that fulfill a critical public service.

These vital grocery stores must stay open and they must be safe.

To help keep all grocery workers and customers safe, we’re asking every American who loves their local grocery store to take the following #ShopSmart Pledge.

  • Always wear a mask or face covering when shopping. If you don’t have a mask, learn how to make one at cdc.gov/coronavirus.
  • Respect social distancing at all times. Stay 6 feet apart from workers and other customers.
  • Discard used masks and gloves safely. Please don’t leave used masks or gloves in a shopping cart or anywhere else – throw them away in the trash.

By working together, we can make sure that our grocery stores remain a safe place to work and shop.

So, please, America… #ShopSmart

Let’s Work Together To Save Lives.

Text ShopSmart to 23396

Visit ufcw.org/shopsmart

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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 healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

April 23, 2020

America’s National Meatpacking Union Urges White House Task Force to Take Immediate Action to Protect Meatpacking Workers & National Food Supply 

UFCW Releases New Estimates on Impact of Coronavirus on Meatpacking Workers – Including Infections, Deaths, Impact on National Food Supply

During National Press Conference Call, UFCW Leaders & Meatpacking Workers Highlight Challenges Posed by Coronavirus at Plants in South Dakota, Iowa, Georgia, Texas, and Kansas 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, America’s largest meatpacking and food processing union, held a national press conference call to highlight the impact of the Coronavirus on meatpacking and food processing workers and to urge the White House Coronavirus Task Force to take five immediate actions to protect these essential meatpacking and food processing workers.

In the letter to Vice President Pence, the UFCW International 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 also released new updates on the serious and deadly impact of the Covid-19 virus. As of today, and based on UFCW internal estimates, 10 meatpacking workers and 3 food processing workers have died. In addition, at least 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers have been directly impacted by the virus. The estimates of those meatpacking and processing workers directly impacted includes individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, or have been hospitalized and/or are symptomatic.

In total, the UFCW identified that 13 plants have closed at some point in the past two months. These closures have resulted in over 24,500 workers impacted and a 25 percent reduction in pork slaughter capacity and a 10 percent reduction in beef slaughter capacity.

“America’s food processing and meatpacking workers are in extreme danger, and our nation’s food supply faces a direct threat from the coronavirus outbreak. If workers in these plants are as essential as our elected leaders say, then it’s about time that our elected leaders provide them with the essential protections they need. Make no mistake, without national safety standards to protect these workers from the coronavirus– more lives will be lost, more workers will be exposed, and our food supply will face jeopardy,” said Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food & Commercial Workers.

During the conference call, the threat to America’s meatpacking workforce was highlighted in very personal terms by five workers from the meatpacking industry who discussed the significant risks they and their co-workers are facing every day in some of the nation’s largest meatpacking facilities. Among the specific risks highlighted by these workers was the challenge posed by a lack of PPE as well as increased line speeds which make social distancing all but impossible.

“Across this country, we are seeing the impact when the government fails to take steps to protect these essential workers. It needs to both provide testing and protective equipment and issue clear and direct safety guidelines that companies can and must enforce. This is not just about whether we will have enough beef, chicken, and pork to feed our families. It is – for these workers – a matter of life and death,” UFCW International President Perrone added.

Further details from the national conference call, including estimates of the coronavirus impact on meatpacking workers and the food supply, information about the workers who spoke out about their personal experiences, and links to the letter sent today to Vice President Pence and the White House Coronavirus Task Force are included below.

Background:

A copy of the letter to Vice President Pence can be found here.

The conference call featured remarks by UFCW International President Marc Perrone, UFCW International Vice President for Meatpacking Mark Lauritsen as well as the following workers from the meatpacking industry who are represented by UFCW:

  • Smithfield pork worker in South Dakota – Achut Deng
  • Cargill beef worker in Kansas – Itzel Goytia
  • JBS pork worker in Iowa – Margarita Heredia
  • Cargill beef worker in Texas – Rhonda Trevino
  • Pilgrim’s Pride maintenance worker in Georgia – Tony Adams

For more information about today’s call, please contact Abraham White at awhite@ufcw.org (202) 341-1899.

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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.

 

April 22, 2020

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Launches National Coronavirus Safety Advertising Campaign Targeting All Grocery Shoppers 

New #ShopSmart Ad Campaign Encourages All Grocery Shoppers to Take 5 Steps to Help Protect Grocery Stores and Prevent Spread of Coronavirus 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents 900,000 grocery workers, announced a new national coronavirus safety advertising campaign entitled, #ShopSmart. 

The new ad campaign is part of a Shop Smart grocery customer safety initiative that is encouraging all of America’s shoppers to help keep grocery stores a safe place to shop and work. Key customer safety steps the campaign highlights include asking that all Americans wear a mask every time they shop, keep at least six feet apart from workers and other shoppers, pay with credit cards, and use store-provided plastic bags to limit the spread of germs. 

As part of the new six-figure UFCW national advertising campaign, the grocery customer safety commercial will air on MSNBC, CNN, and media outlets across the country and will reach more than 3.2 million Americans 

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement: 

“Grocery stores and workers are essential to our national fight against the coronavirus outbreak. No matter where you shop, every American must do more to help protect our local grocery stores and the brave men and women keeping them open for our families.   

“The #ShopSmart campaign is just one important piece of our national effort to protect all workers, union and non-union, and the American people. Working together, we believe that if every shopper adopts these easy safety steps, we can help protect these essential grocery workers and make sure that grocery stores remain a safe place to shop and work when we need them most.” 

The first phase of the #Shop Smart ad campaign will begin airing nationally today in 21 media markets across 8 states, including the major media markets of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C. 

The UFCW Shop Smart commercial features the following text: 

Tip #1: Stay Safe

When shopping, be sure to wear a mask and gloves at all times. If you’re showing symptoms, please don’t shop. See if a loved one can shop for you. Minimize frequency of shopping trips. 

Tip #2: Social Distancing

Maintain as much distance as possible from other shoppers – especially while waiting in line – and employees when you can. The CDC recommends at least six feet, which is the length of about two shopping carts. 

Tip #3: Limit Contact

Do your best not to touch surfaces and bring your own wipes to disinfect touch-points, including the handles on shopping carts. Please use store provided plastic bags instead of reusable bags – they’re safer and cleaner. 

Tip #4: Use Credit Cards

If possible, use your credit card instead of cash…

…and wipe down your card/phone before and after your shopping trip. 

Tip #5: Be Supportive

We’re doing our best to keep our shelves stocked and stores staffed to serve you. We appreciate your patience and understanding!

Text “ShopSmart” to 23396

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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.

April 20, 2020

UFCW Calls on USDA to Take Five Immediate Actions to Protect Meatpacking Workers and America’s Food Supply During Coronavirus Outbreak

America’s Largest Food and Retail Union Urges USDA to Prioritize a Series of Critical Safety Actions, including Testing and Personal Protection Equipment for All Meatpacking and Food Workers 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing all across the country, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calling on Secretary Sonny Perdue to take a series of immediate actions to protect meatpacking workers and our nation’s food supply.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s meatpacking workers have been on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic from the beginning, working tirelessly to make sure families have the food they need during this crisis. These brave men and women are providing an essential service despite enormous risk to their own health and the health of their families. Every day, these workers are not only putting their lives on the line to protect our nation’s food supply, they continue to work in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable.

“The threat these workers face during this outbreak is real and their safety concerns must be addressed immediately. At least six of our own members in meatpacking facilities have tragically passed away and hundreds more have been impacted by this ongoing pandemic. All across the country, we are witnessing meatpacking facilities having to close down, endangering our food supply at the worst possible moment.

“For the sake of these workers and our nation, it is clear that more must be done now. We are urgently calling on Secretary Perdue to adopt a series of safety actions and enact immediate guidelines to protect these essential workers which, in turn, will protect our communities and this nation’s food supply.”

Today’s UFCW letter calls on the USDA to take five immediate steps to protect meatpacking workers from the Coronavirus:

  • Prioritize Essential Workers for Testing: In order to ensure the health and safety of workers and protect the food supply, essential workers, such as those in meatpacking and food processing, must be prioritized for testing
  • Immediate Access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Though social and physical distancing are essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19, workers still need access to PPE, such as masks and gloves. The reality is that many of our meatpacking members lack the critical personal protection equipment necessary to do their job and reduce the risk of exposure. It is essential that the USDA, in conjunction with the White House Task force, prioritize all meatpacking and food workers for PPE to ensure the health and safety of these workers and to protect our food supply.
  • Immediate Halt On Line Speed Waivers: In the first two weeks of this month, the USDA’s Food and Safety Inspection Service approved 11 regulatory waivers for poultry plants to increase their maximum line speed. Rather than protect our food supply and workers, these waivers guarantee that workers are more crowded along a meatpacking line and more workers are put at risk of either catching or spreading the virus. It is critical that the USDA immediately cease granting any new waivers and suspend all existing waivers that allow plants to operate at faster speeds.
  • Mandate Social Distancing Where Possible: In order to responsibly protect workers and prevent spread of the disease, companies must enforce and practice six-foot social and physical distancing to the greatest extent possible, even if this means production slows down. Where distancing is not possible, companies should use plexiglass barriers to separate and protect workers, and/or ensure that all workers are provided with masks that can safely be used under these extreme conditions.
  • Isolate Workers Who Show Symptoms or Test Positive for COVID-19: In light of the largest outbreak to date at Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, it is critical to identify and isolate workers who have tested positive or who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. These workers should be allowed to quarantine at home, with pay, per the recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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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.