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South Dakota Labor Leaders and Meatpacking Essential Workers Testified on South Dakota Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers Act

February 15, 2022 Updated: February 17, 2022

UFCW Local 304A Leadership and Meatpacking Members Testified and Urged State Legislatures to Put Worker Protections and Safety First

PIERRE, SD – Today,the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 304A, which represents 2,500 workers in South Dakota, leadership and meatpacking essential worker members testified before the South Dakota Senate Energy and Commerce Committee on the dire need to provide protections and workplace safety for meat and poultry processing workers.

The following are excerpts from prepared remarks UFCW Local 304A President BJ Motley delivered today before the South Dakota Senate Energy and Commerce Committee:

“As state legislators, you have the authority and responsibility to protect our state’s frontline workers who have bravely worked throughout this crisis to keep America’s food supply chain strong.  We can no longer accept out-of-court federal agreements that allow meat and poultry processing companies to police their own workforce’s health and safety.

“That is why I urge you to support the South Dakota Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers Act.  This proposal will hold meat and poultry processing companies accountable for the health and safety of their workforce and ensure America’s food supply chain remains strong.”

The following are excerpts from UFCW Local 304A essential meatpacking workers on their support for the South Dakota Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers Act:

  • “From the beginning of the pandemic, it has been difficult to get Smithfield to recognize the threat COVID-19 posed to workers. Today that attitude is even worse, Smithfield has yet to establish any consistent cleaning and sanitation standards. Workers in this industry deserve consistent health and safety protections that hold employers accountable. This proposal does that and I urge you to support it,” said Kevin Kaul, distribution center worker at Smithfield in Sioux Falls and UFCW Local 304A member.
  • “Today Smithfield operates the plant as if the pandemic is over and no longer acknowledges any personal responsibility to protect their workforce from getting COVID-19. This creates an environment that encourages workers to come into work sick. This proposal would require Smithfield to provide workers reasonable access to paid sick and safe time. It is time that we change the ‘work while sick’ culture in this country,” said Bobby Conner, lead man at Smithfield in Sioux Falls and UFCW Local 304A member.
  • “The public is not aware of how difficult it is for workers to socially distance on the kill floor. Smithfield’s response of installing plastic shield barriers between workers becomes more of an impediment to meet current line speeds than it is to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This proposal requires companies to allow workers to maintain a 6-foot distance between workers at all workstations and common areas. I urge you to support this proposal,” said Scott Worden, electrician at Smithfield in Sioux Falls and UFCW Local 304A member.
  • “Smithfield always denies workers’ health and safety claims in the plant. Sometimes workers are given light work duty when they need further medical attention. Smithfield employs its own nurses that often do what is best for the company instead of the worker.”

Background:

Since the beginning of this pandemic UFCW Local 304A has been proactive in advocating for legislation to protect America’s food supply and meatpacking workers.

Today, UFCW Local 304A President BJ Motley testified and participated in the South Dakota Senate Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Senate Bill 145.

In their testimony, President Motley and UFCW members, discussed the conditions meatpacking workers have faced on the frontlines of the outbreak and called for the support of the South Dakota Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers Act that will help hold meat and poultry processing companies accountable for the health and safety of their workforce and ensure America’s food supply chain remains strong.

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UFCW Local 304A is part of UFCW International, 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.