Union opposes reopening of US meat factories as more workers die


CHICAGO (Reuters) – The largest union representing US meat packaging workers said Friday that it opposes the reopening of factories after the Trump administration failed to guarantee worker safety.

FILE PHOTO: Pig food from pig farmer Mike Patterson, part of his efforts to slow the rate at which his animals grow, a necessity caused by disruptions in the supply chain linked to the disease coronavirus (COVID-19), seen in one of its barns in Kenyon, Minnesota, United States, April 23, 2020. Photo taken on April 23, 2020. REUTERS / Nicholas Pfosi / File Photo

At least 30 meat processing workers have died from the new coronavirus and more than 10,000 have contracted it, said the Union of United Food and International Trade Workers (UFCW), which represents more than 250,000 food processing and food processing workers, said in a statement.

The pandemic caused the temporary closure of at least 30 meat packing plants in the past two months, which resulted in a 40% drop in pork production capacity and a 25% drop in pork production capacity. beef production, said the union.

Earlier on Friday, the United States Department of Agriculture said 14 factories that had closed due to virus outbreaks are reopening this week. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue applauded “the safe reopening of meat packaging infrastructure from critical infrastructure in the United States.”

President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to force meat factories to remain open during the pandemic on April 28 after companies warned of meat shortages in the United States . The UFCW has already stated that more protective equipment and tests will be needed to open the factories. The union adopted a more critical tone on Friday.

“Today’s rush by the Trump administration to reopen 14 meat packing plants without the urgent security improvements required is a reckless decision that will endanger American lives and jeopardize the long-term security of the country.” ‘food supply to our nation’, Marc Marc, international president of UFCW Perrone said in a statement.

“Since the decree was announced by President Trump, the administration has failed to take urgent action to enact clear and enforceable safety standards in these meat packing plants.”

The 14 plants included a Smithfield Foods Inc. pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which started operating on May 7, and another in Waterloo, Iowa, which Tyson Foods announced earlier in the week, would resume limited operations. .

The agriculture department also said that the meat facilities operated by JBS USA [JBS.UL] in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and six other Tyson plants reopened.

About 35 percent of hog slaughter capacity in the United States remained inactive on Thursday, said Steve Meyer, economist for Kerns and Associates. He estimated that about 32% to 33% was inactive on Friday.

Report by Tom Polansek and Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Sandra Maler and Diane Craft

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