Covid-19 cases, deaths among meatpacking workers three times worse than thought

meatpacking workers on line with bones and meat“Our investigation found that the Trump administration’s response to the outbreaks in meatpacking plants was wholly insufficient,” said Rep. James Clyburn, chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Wednesday.

Five large meatpackers reneged on their duty to protect their workers during the pandemic and roughly three times as many deaths and infections from Covid-19 ocurred among employees. Recent reporting showed at least 269 deaths and at least 59,000 infections.

“The meat industry decided to thumb their noses” at federal recommendations such as social distancing at work. More meatpacking workers died of Covid-19 in 18 months than died of work-related causes in the preceding 15 years,” said Debbie Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the National Employment Law Project.

The numbers of infections and deaths of these so-called “essential workers” is a travesty. While we depend on these workers, a majority of whom are people of color, our treatment of them is a sad reminder of what happens when expediency and profits drive practice.

FERN Ag Insider has followed this issue closely and their Covid-19 Mapping Project, which relied on public reports of outbreaks, may be the best independent source of the coronavirus’ impact among meat workers. But the numbers reported Wednesday by  five large meatpackers were about three times higher than the numbers compiled by FERN.

To read the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis report, click here. To watch a video of the hearing, click here.

Read the full article from FERN here.

Read more…

1)  Slaughterhouse: Meat processing workers risk Covid-19 infection from Food & Faith Blog

2)  Meat Plant Closings Show Fragility of “Get Big” System, Say Midwest Family Farm Groups
The groups called for government pandemic response programs to:

  • Prioritize access to safety net programs for farms and small food businesses.
  • Prohibit loans for new or expanding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.
  • Require fair market practices rules to allow independent livestock producers and small and mid-sized packing plants to compete on a level playing field.
  • Establish a moratorium on new agribusiness and food industry mergers.
  • Reinstate mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).

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