South Dakota Meatpacking Workers Condemn Smithfield Federal Settlement Letting Company Police Itself on Worker Safety As COVID Risks Continue
Top Union for South Dakota Meatpacking Workers at Smithfield Sioux Falls Plant Condemns Failure to Hold Company Accountable for Workplace Safety Failures Endangering Facility’s Frontline Food Workers
SIOUX FALLS, SD — Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 304A, the union for nearly 3,000 South Dakota frontline workers, condemned a new federal settlement with Smithfield Foods announced by the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA). The deal announced by the federal agency followed a citation for the April 2020 Sioux Falls Smithfield plant COVID outbreak which resulted in four worker deaths from COVID-19 and nearly 1,300 worker infections.
As the union for Smithfield pork workers at the Sioux Falls plant, UFCW Local 304A criticized the new federal agreement for weakening the citation for worker safety violations, a clear failure to recognize the company’s safety issues, and allowing the company to police itself on worker safety by appointing its own team of experts to evaluate plant safety and preparedness, even as COVID-19 cases proliferate and risks to workers continue.
UFCW Local 304A B.J. Motley released the following statement:
“Smithfield workers put their health at risk daily to make sure Americans could feed their families during this pandemic. The Sioux Falls plant experienced one of the most deadly and dangerous COVID-19 outbreaks in the country.
“Our leaders have a responsibility to protect America’s frontline workers who have been bravely putting their lives at risk to keep our country’s food supply chain strong throughout this crisis. This deal is nothing more than a slap on the wrist for Smithfield and a deeply troubling betrayal of the men and women who have already sacrificed so much in this pandemic.
“As the union for Sioux Falls Smithfield workers, UFCW Local 304A is disappointed that OSHA has failed to deliver the real accountability these South Dakota workers and their families deserve with meaningful action to strengthen worker safety protections.”