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Union leaders press Oversight Committee to pass protections for meat plant workers

Union leaders press Oversight Committee to pass protections for meat plant workers
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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is asking Congress to pass legislation that protects meat plant and grocery store workers. 

In a testimony before the House Oversight Committee UFCW President Marc Perrone called on lawmakers to expand paid sick days and paid family leave benefits that were included in the second stimulus bill.

“Millions of workers who lack access to paid sick days and paid family and medical leave are facing the devastating choice between risking their own health or risking the loss of a paycheck or job,” Perrone told the lawmakers.

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They are also asking the government to require their employers to provide free personal protective equipment and protect workers from retaliation for speaking out about safety issues, as some have.  

“Strong, anti-retaliation protections must be in place in order to ensure that workers who feel ill, or who are suffering from COVID-19, can remain at home, in quarantine for the full period of time recommended by the CDC, until it is safe to return to work,” Perrone said.

The U.S. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Tuesday that meatpacking facilities are operating at more than 95 percent capacity compared to 2019 levels. 

In May President TrumpDonald John TrumpFox News president, top anchors advised to quarantine after coronavirus exposure: report Six notable moments from Trump and Biden's '60 Minutes' interviews Biden on attacks on mental fitness: Trump thought '9/11 attack was 7/11 attack' MORE invoked the Defense Production Act to declare meatpacking plants “critical infrastructure,” compelling facilities to remain open during the pandemic.

The move came after several outbreaks in major U.S. meat processing plants left some worried of a potential meat shortage.

UFCW estimates that 225 of its members have died from the coronavirus and over 29,000 have become sick or exposed to the virus. The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found this week that the number of cases tied to such facilities has since increased by more than 100 percent to 20,400 infections across 216 plants in 33 states.

”Without these actions I can promise you that more Americans will needlessly get sick and die,” Perrone said.