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Union opposes reopening U.S. meat plants as more workers die

Stock MarketsMay 08, 2020 10:20PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Worker stacks beef in meat section of Costco during coronavirus pandemic in Webster, Texas

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The largest union representing U.S. meatpacking workers said on Friday it opposed the reopening of plants as the Trump administration had failed to guarantee workers' safety.

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

The pandemic caused at least 30 meatpacking plants to temporarily close over the past two months, resulting in a 40% drop in pork production capacity and a 25% drop in beef production capacity, the union said.

Earlier on Friday, the U.S. Agriculture Department said 14 plants that had closed due to outbreaks of the virus were in the process of reopening this week. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue applauded "the safe reopening of critical infrastructure meatpacking facilities across the United States."

U.S. President Donald Trump on April 28 invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act to mandate meat plants stay opened during the pandemic, after companies warned of meat shortages in the United States. UFCW has previously said more protective equipment and testing would be required to open the plants. On Friday the union adopted a more critical tone.

"Today’s rush by the Trump Administration to re-open 14 meatpacking plants without the urgent safety improvements needed is a reckless move that will put American lives at risk and further endanger the long-term security of our nation’s food supply," UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement.

"Since the executive order was announced by President Trump, the Administration has failed to take the urgent action needed to enact clear and enforceable safety standards at these meatpacking plants."

The 14 plants included a Smithfield Foods Inc pork facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, that started operating on May 7 and another in Waterloo, Iowa, that Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN) said earlier in the week would resume limited operations.

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

As of Thursday, about 35% of U.S. slaughter capacity for hogs still remained idle, said Steve Meyer, economist for Kerns and Associates. He estimated that about 32% to 33% was idle on Friday.

Union opposes reopening U.S. meat plants as more workers die
 

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Comments (11)
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun May 09, 2020 2:50AM ET
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Trump should guarantee them at least n95 masks. If gov dont, i am on their side.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun May 09, 2020 2:46AM ET
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I go to work every day during lock down. Last time i called trying to get a test, i was refused.
Piet Delaney
Piet Delaney May 09, 2020 2:21AM ET
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employers should be required to carry insurance against employees getting harmed or their employees causing harm as a consequence of their working. Require the employers to set up enough protections to really protect their employees. currently the employers have their PAC's install minimal precautions be set up for employees. we see that problem in many industries.
Felise Ropati
Felise Ropati May 09, 2020 1:52AM ET
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why work when unemployment pays well and free checks are in the mail! safety is your responsibility not the government! Wear mask, practice social distancing, wash hands frequently... Bob Marley said "everything's gonna be alright"!
Anthony Anthony
Anthony Anthony May 08, 2020 11:17PM ET
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Unions will find any excuse not to work.
travert xavier
travert xavier May 08, 2020 10:56PM ET
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See, that's exactly what the market is ignoring, people and workers reactions to opening. it will be much harder to bring back people to work than the market expect. moreover nobody is considering the potential massive social unrest as reaction to fiscal policies, health issues and an unemployment over 20%. I think analysis are missing those elements
franklin neversoy
franklin neversoy May 08, 2020 10:44PM ET
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First trump doesn’t care it’s money over health when people start getting sick from meat it will end butcher business people can’t even stay inside for a month June will continue with sick and deaths thanks trump for nothing cmon November
Johnson Gray
Johnson Gray May 08, 2020 10:33PM ET
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i need my meat tho
Don Getty
Don Getty May 08, 2020 9:38PM ET
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white house unlimited testing - meat plants no testing - trump re opening strategy - no tests ='s no virus
maga king
maga king May 08, 2020 6:16PM ET
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ban unions!
Kilo Byte
Kilo Byte May 08, 2020 6:16PM ET
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Trumpers are all about "muh freedom" until someone says something they don't want to hear.
Midway Eholdings
Midway Eholdings May 08, 2020 6:08PM ET
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Union says “ how can we steal the most possible”?
 
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