During the COVID-19 crisis, the meatpacking industry has been deemed an essential business, and therefore has remained fully operational with workers in these facilities being exposed to unsafe working conditions. Since the beginning of the outbreak, at least 15,300 cases of coronavirus are attributed to workers adhering to a normal work schedule without the necessary precautionary measures to keep workers healthy. While President Trump has pushed plants to remain open, workers are exposed to unsuitable conditions, resulting in at least 63 deaths, which highlights the urgency of stronger worker protection rules.
The USDA has repeatedly stated its mission to assist rural communities in the United States, however, workers are clearly risking their well-being to continue their work in meatpacking plants. Given reports that the federal government may have collaborated with the meatpacking industry to shield it from ongoing or potential occupational safety lawsuits, the public deserves to know whether worker protection or industry influence is guiding worker safety regulations.
CREW has requested documents regarding worker safety between the Department of Agriculture as well as the Department of Labor with both White House officials and any other private, outside entities.
This is not the first time Trump has refused to enforce or enact worker safety regulations and put essential workers on the front lines at risk. In order to keep our country operational during this pandemic, the government should be focusing on worker safety and public health measures that will keep frontline workers such as meatpacking plant employees safe and healthy. These documents would provide the necessary insight into whether for not these measures are being taken, and whether industry influence has played a role.