Trump will take unprecedented action after food processors shut down factories in response to workers’ coronavirus outbreaks.
Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday declaring meat processing plants critical infrastructure under the Defense Production Act and preventing them from closing during the pandemic emergency.
The ordinance will include directives from the Ministry of Labor to provide liability protections to businesses.
“The OE forces factories to stay open,” said a source. “We see it as an urgent need and there should be no panic over the food supply as our country embarks on the road to recovery.”
The source said the White House will work with the Ministry of Labor to encourage older workers and others at risk to stay at home.
“If you take precautions with those who are older workers, the White House estimates that there are a large number of workers with a younger, healthier profile to continue working at low risk,” said the source. “This assessment is based on consultation with experts in the field as well as medical advice. “
A second source said, “The government will provide additional protective equipment for employees and advice. “
Trump teased the executive in an afternoon exchange with journalists from the Oval Office.
“We are working with Tyson. We are going to sign an executive order today, I believe, and that will solve all the liability issues, “said Trump.
Trump did not specify the details of the order, but said it would help ensure that the U.S. food supply is not disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis.
“We are working with Tyson, who is one of the big companies in the world. And we are still working with farmers. There is a lot of supply, there is a lot, as you know, there is a lot of supply – this is the distribution and we will probably have that resolved today. “
Trump added, “It was a very unique circumstance because of the responsibility. “
Republicans and some White House officials urged Trump to protect businesses after outbreaks of coronaviruses in meat packing plants forced some to shut down.
John Tyson, chairman of the board of directors of Tyson, warned in newspaper advertisements on Sunday that “the food supply chain is breaking”, after the company closed a packaging factory of pigs in Iowa
“As pork, beef and chicken factories are forced to close, even for short periods, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain,” Tyson warned.
Democrats, who previously resisted a liability shield for manufacturers of N-95 face masks, are reluctant to protect against liability for food companies.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he was skeptical of the liability protections imposed by Republican majority leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Schumer said tuesday: “Does he say that if an owner tells a worker that he has to work next to someone who might have a mask-free coronavirus or PPE, that owner would not be responsible? That does not make any sense. “