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COVID Vaccine for Meatpacking Workers Essential to Protecting America’s Food Supply as Pandemic Worsens

December 23, 2020

Mid adult man getting shot, nurse in protective workwear injecting vaccine

UFCW Partners with Industry Leaders in New Call for Governors in All 50 States to Prioritize Vaccination of Frontline Meat and Poultry Workers

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the nation’s largest union for meatpacking workers and the association representing meat producers joined forces to urge all 50 U.S. governors to urgently prioritize COVID-19 vaccination for frontline meat and poultry workers across the United States, in accordance with official Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance.

In a new joint letter to governors, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and the North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) emphasized that quickly vaccinating the sector’s diverse workforce of some500,000 employees across the country will maximize health benefits, especially in rural communities that often have limited health services, while keeping Americans’ refrigerators full and our farm economy working. Click here to read the full letter to governors.

COVID-19 vaccinations can, in many cases, be administered through meat and poultry facilities’ existing health programs and staff. UFCW and the Meat Institute committed to assist employees with information and access to off-site vaccination, if needed, and to support vaccine information and education efforts.

UFCW International Vice President Mark Lauritsen:

“America’s meatpacking workers are bravely serving on the frontlines so that millions of families can put food on the table during this crisis. To keep our nation’s food supply secure as the pandemic worsens, we need strong action now from our elected leaders to protect these essential workers in meatpacking plants. As the largest union for America’s meatpacking workers, UFCW is joining industry leaders today in a unified call for governors in all 50 states to immediately prioritize meatpacking workers for access to the COVID vaccine. American lives are at stake and these courageous men and women on the frontlines cannot wait any longer.”

Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts:

“Health authorities around the world, employers, unions, and civil rights groups all agree – high priority access to vaccines is critical for the long-term safety of essential frontline meat and poultry workers who have kept Americans’ refrigerators full and our farm economy working throughout this crisis.” 

BACKGROUND:

UFCW released new COVID-19 infection numbers today, announcing that among the union’s members across the country there have already been at least:

  • 363 frontline worker deaths and over 63,000 frontline workers infected or exposed
  • 130 meatpacking worker deaths and 20,600 meatpacking workers infected or exposed

Prioritizing vaccines for frontline meat and poultry workers will build on more than $1.5 billion in comprehensive COVID-19 prevention measures the industry has implemented since the spring. 

Average case rates amongst meat and poultry workers in November were more than 8 times lower than in the general U.S. population. Further details about COVID-19 health and safety measures and COVID-19 relief contributions are available here

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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