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Lawmakers, union leaders call for increased safety measures in meat plants

Lawmakers, union leaders call for increased safety measures in meat plants

Lawmakers and union leaders are calling for increased safety measures in meat plants after President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked by platform's pre-election blackout Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' Harris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden MORE announced an executive order to reopen meat processing plants that have been affected by coronavirus outbreaks. 

Trump’s order on Tuesday applies to all meat plants in the U.S. after industry experts projected that the country could face a food shortage if plants remained closed for prolonged periods of time. Companies including Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods have closed plants due to coronavirus outbreaks among their workers.

“Given the high volume of meat and poultry processed by many facilities, any unnecessary closures can quickly have a large effect on the food supply chain,” Trump wrote in the order. 

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Unions representing the workers impacted by the outbreaks called on the administration to consider mandating safety measures. 

“We only wish that this administration cared as much about the lives of working people as it does about meat, pork and poultry products,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said Tuesday. 

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) asked the administration to consider them for prioritized testing and provide persona protective equipment (PPE) for workers, among other demands. 

“We urge the Administration to immediately enact clear and enforceable safety standards that compel all meatpacking companies to provide the highest level of protective equipment through access to the federal stockpile of PPE, ensure daily testing is available for workers and their communities, enforce physical distancing at all plants, and provide full paid sick leave for any workers who are infected,” the UFCW said in a statement Tuesday.

Democratic lawmakers who oversee agriculture followed suit and communicated similar requests to the administration Wednesday.

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"In carrying out this executive order the Administration must ensure the health and safety of workers and provide all the resources necessary to do so,” said Rep. Jim CostaJames (Jim) Manuel CostaHouse Democrats call on State Department for information on Uighur prisoner Ekpar Asat Hispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs Black Caucus rallies behind Meeks for Foreign Affairs gavel MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the House Agriculture Committee.  

“Our beef, pork, and poultry processing facilities are essential infrastructure and I have long said our food supply is a national security issue,” he added. 

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Democrats brace for nail-biting finish to Senate battle Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  MORE (D-Ill.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said Trump’s executive order “ignores the health and safety realities of this pandemic.”  

“The coronavirus is not impressed with a presidential order and neither are the workers who are risking their lives working shoulder to shoulder on meat processing lines,” Durbin said. “If the Trump Administration would make a national commitment to serious testing and worker protection instead of a mindless mandate we could bring this valuable sector of our economy back to life.”