fbpx Skip to main content

Have a question about the Covid-19 vaccine? Learn more here.

Search
Press Releases

UFCW: As COVID Reveals Food Supply Chain Issues, Congress Must Strengthen Worker Safety in Meatpacking Plants, Increase Transparency, Bolster Support for American Agriculture Jobs

November 22, 2021

Two women who are UFCW 1149 members in a meatpacking plant

America’s Largest Meatpacking Union Endorses New Bill from Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Ro Khanna to Require Greater Worker Safety in Plants 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the union for 1.3 million workers in meatpacking and other frontline industries, announced its support for new legislation from U.S. Senator Cory Booker (New Jersey) and Representative Ro Khanna (California) that will strengthen worker safety, help increase transparency, and support American jobs as the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed widespread challenges across the food supply chain.

The Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act would provide essential protections to meatpacking workers and comes as a new Congressional investigation revealed that there have now been at least 59,000 meatpacking worker COVID-19 infections and at least 269 meatpacking worker COVID-19 deaths. These figures are roughly triple earlier estimates based on UFCW union plants, highlighting widespread COVID-19 safety failures at non-union plants and underscoring the need for stronger worker protections across the industry.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s meatpacking and food processing workers have put their health on the line every day of this pandemic to ensure our families can put food on the table. These hard-working men and women on the frontlines of our food supply chain deserve safe workplaces.

“Today’s introduction of the Protecting American Meatpacking Workers Act by Senator Booker and Representative Khanna is a critical step toward strengthening protections in these plants, increasing consumer protections, and holding the industry accountable. Americans deserve to know that their food is safe, made here in the United States, and comes from American workers who are protected on the job. 

“Today’s introduction of the Protecting American Meatpacking Workers Act by Senator Booker and Representative Khanna is a critical step toward strengthening protections in these plants, increasing consumer protections, and holding the industry accountable. Americans deserve to know that their food is safe, made here in the United States, and comes from American workers who are protected on the job. 

BACKGROUND:

UFCW, America’s largest union for meatpacking workers, has been a leading national voice for strengthening safeguards in these plants throughout the pandemic and has continued to speak out about the urgent need for long-term safety improvements and greater accountability and transparency in the industry to ensure consumers and workers are protected.

  • Stop Dangerous Line Speed Increases by preventing the U.S. Department of Agriculture from issuing any line speed waivers unless meat and poultry plants show that an increase in line speeds will not adversely impact worker safety. Inspections must include:
    • Analysis of all jobs which may experience an increase in working pace
    • Assessment of rates of musculoskeletal disorders among workers
    • Steps the establishment is taking to mitigate those disorders
    • Review of the impact of any proposed line speed increases on the pace of work
  • Strengthen Health and Safety with a new U.S. Department of Labor standard which includes information on hazard identification and control, employee training on occupational risk factors, and measures to prevent delays of medical treatment referrals following a workplace injury or illness
  • Expanded Safety Inspections of meat and poultry plants which will cover multiple aspects of worker safety including amputation hazards, hazards related to line speeds, bathroom breaks, use of certain antimicrobials, and temperatures of work sites. Allows inspections to be expanded to all areas of the meat or poultry plant when information is presented regarding additional possible dangers. 
  • Provide New Funding for Safety Inspectors to ensure that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has the resources necessary to hire additional staff to perform regular evaluations of the safety of working conditions in plants.
  • Strengthen Protections from Retaliation Over Safety Concerns to ensure employees can refuse to perform work duties under conditions of reasonable apprehension and sets up a system wherein employees may file a complaint in the event retaliation has occurred, while also outlining the process by which complaints will be reviewed.
  • Create New Pandemic Safety Reporting to be established by the U.S. Department of Labor and used in future pandemics. The new reporting will require meat or poultry plants to report the number of employees who have become ill, their racial demographics, and their employment status; and requires that this information be made publicly available.
  • Restore Country of Origin Labeling on a mandatory basis for beef and pork products to ensure consumers know where this food comes from and can trust that it is safe and made by American workers.

###

UFCW International is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 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 ufcw.org