Story at a glance

  • The largest meat workers' union in the U.S. says 93 meatpacking employees died due to the coronavirus.
  • Multiple leading meat production plants shut down in May due to coronavirus outbreaks among staff.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the largest U.S. meatpacking union, said that 93 meatpacking and processing employees have died as a result of COVID-19, Reuters reports.

Speaking to reporters on a press call, union spokespeople said that more than 196 of its total members across grocery and drug stores, as well as meatpacking plants, have died from coronavirus infections. More than 2,300 union members have been exposed to or affected by it overall in the last month.

This follows recent news that industry regulators found no workplace safety violations at a Tyson Foods pork plant in Iowa after an outbreak among staff forced the facility to temporarily shut down. Hundreds of plant workers were infected, with the Iowa Department of Public Health reporting 444 individual cases. 

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Other large plants, like Smithfield Foods and JBS USA, ceased operations back in April as increasing rates of coronavirus infections were spreading among their employees. Cumulatively, more than 4,900 meat processing employees tested positive for the coronavirus, per U.S. Centers for Disease Control data.  

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The shutdowns that ensued following the mass outbreaks prompted meat shortages and higher prices, which gave way to a boost in demand for new plant-based meat alternatives. 

On April 28, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to keep meat processing facilities open, designating them as critical U.S. infrastructure. Since then plants have spent tens of millions of dollars on virus mitigation efforts like deep cleaning, dividers and face shields.


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Published on Jun 25, 2020