In this file:
· JBS meat plant in Michigan sends home older workers as it ramps up production [MI beef op]
· JBS's Tim Shellpeper: 'I know that we are working really hard to keep these employees safe.' [TX beef op]
· Coronavirus to Slow U.S. Meat Production for Months, CEO Says
· JBS employee, locals question safety measures put into place at Ottumwa plant [IA pork op]
JBS meat plant in Michigan sends home older workers as it ramps up production
By Lindsay Moore, MLive (MI)
May 14, 2020
PLAINWEILL, MI -- The JBS meat production facility near Plainwell is ramping up production after several weeks of long lists of absences and decreased production, union representatives said.
In April, the first cases of COVID-19 were reported among JBS workers, sparking anxiety among the workers and outrage among animal advocates.
So many workers took sick days the plant was shut down for two days, said John Cakmakci, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 951 that represents Michigan workers.
In an effort to keep employees safe and still working, the union negotiated a $600 bonus and an extra $4 an hour.
Two weeks ago, the union also negotiated that all employees 60 and older be sent home with paid time off and full benefits, Cakmakci said. He estimated this applied to 30-40 employees out of the 1,300 workers at the Plainwell plant.
Although the virus has infected people in all age groups, it is most fatal in adults older than 60 with compromised immune systems.
The union has also secured staggered breaks, face shields and plexiglass dividers. Cakmakci said it was disappointing that it took a pandemic to push forward safety measures the union suggested previously.
“In the end, it’s a lot safer place to work than it use to be,” he said.
With the safeguards in place, the plant plans to ramp up to full production by July, Cakmakci said.
Cameron Bruett, spokesperson for JBS, could not confirm a timeline for the plant to return to full production.
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JBS's Tim Shellpeper: 'I know that we are working really hard to keep these employees safe.'
John Key, The Moore County News Press (TX)
May 14, 2020
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act and signed an order requiring the nation's meat processing facilities to remain open as "critical infrastructure." The move came after several plants around the country, including three owned by JBS USA, closed or reduced production temporarily, after employees in the plants tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) or became ill in significant numbers. Two days before, John H. Tyson, chairman of the board of Tyson Foods wrote in an advertisement printed in the Washington Post and other newspapers that the meat supply in the nation was under threat from the plant closures.
For Moore County residents, the president's order put to rest rumors and speculation that have been swirling around the JBS Cactus plant since the beginning of the health crisis about whether or not the facility in Cactus would remain open or closed, though it did not settle the issue of the plant's role in Moore County's seemingly high per capita coronavirus infection rate. Governor Greg Abbott's executive order of March 31 closing non-essential businesses exempted food production facilities as essential. JBS Cactus, Moore County's largest employer by far with over 3000 employees, remained in operation. In recent weeks, as coronavirus testing ramped up, it became clear that counties near meat processing plants were having higher per capita rates of infection than even those in urban areas. Moore County, as of Wednesday, April 29, had 295 total test-confirmed cases, 160 of those active cases, 132 recoveries and 3 fatalities, giving it one of the highest per capita rates in the state.
The issue of JBS Cactus and the coronavirus in Moore County came to a head last week when a story appeared in the Texas Tribune that stated that the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) was conducting an investigation of the plant because of an outbreak of cases there. On Thursday, personnel of the DSHS toured the plant along with several local government officials. After the tour, DSHS spokesperson Lara Anton said the DSHS personnel "saw that they (JBS) had implemented our recommendations and noted that they were following all the best practices for an essential business to remain in operation." She also said the tour was at the invitation of JBS and had not been initiated by the state agency. Anton said there were 114 cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) associated with the Cactus plant, though not all were in Moore County. That figure, as of Wednesday, April 29, had climbed to 210 cases.
The Sunday before, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union announced that the union had come to an agreement with JBS to temporarily increase worker's pay by $4 per hour and "further strengthen safety measures in these plants." Marc Perrone, president of UFCW International said in the announcement, "We applaud JBS and our local UFCW Locals for coming to an agreement that recognizes the hard work and sacrifices of these brave men and women by giving them an additional $4 an hour and, more importantly, access to the personal protection equipment like masks, gloves, and face shields that they need to do their job safely."
On Tuesday, April 28, Tim Shellpeper head of JBS's fed beef unit and the man responsible for operations at four JBS facilities, including the JBS Cactus plant, and Manny Guerrero, general manager of the Cactus plant, met with the News-Press and discussed worker safety, the difficulty of operating in a constantly changing environment, and the steps they say they have taken to keep workers and the community safe while continuing to produce food for the approximately 10 million people a day who eat the beef that comes from the JBS Cactus plant. They responded to rumors and critics and pushed back against some of the social media posts across the community that, they say, have painted an inaccurate and incomplete picture of the company and its response to the coronavirus
"One of the things that I like to talk about is that these folks that are coming in here every day … we owe these folks, because they are on the front lines of feeding our country, and it is incumbent upon us to do all these things we are doing to keep them safe," said Shellpeper. "That increase in their wages was frankly an expression of our appreciation for what they do every day and the environment that they do it."
Shellpeper acknowledged that JBS Cactus is not operating at full capacity and that some employees have left out of fear of the virus. "We are fighting two enemies here: one is the coronavirus, and the other is fear. Are we operating at our maximum capacity? No, we are not." A number of employees were identified early on as "at risk" and sent home with pay to wait out the crisis. Others have taken vacation time or a leave of absence. "All of these people are an important part of the team. When you take them out, you are going to lose some productivity. We are operating every day of the week that we normally do, but it has had some impact."
The company has sought advice from outside epidemiologists from the University of Nebraska and elsewhere and followed the CDC guidelines in fashioning a response to the virus, said Shellpeper...
Coronavirus to Slow U.S. Meat Production for Months, CEO Says
Head of the biggest U.S. beef producer says JBS is revamping operations and has hired 1,000 workers to do extra cleaning
By Jacob Bunge, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ)
May 15, 2020
The coronavirus will likely hamper U.S. meat production for months, as new safety measures and reduced staffing slow plant operations, said the head of the biggest U.S. beef producer.
JBS USA Holdings Inc., which slaughters 23% of the country’s cattle and produces nearly one-fifth of its pork, is revamping plant operations to space workers farther apart while about 10% of its workforce has been sent home because of their higher risk from Covid-19, Chief Executive Andre Nogueira said...
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JBS employee, locals question safety measures put into place at Ottumwa plant
By : Bella Tierce, KYOU-TV (IA)
May. 14, 2020
OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) - On March 30th JBS USA confirmed JBS in Ottumwa had one case of COVID-19. Since then no other cases have been confirmed by the company but many Ottumwans think otherwise.
Weekly KYOU receives calls and emails from worried workers, spouses, and family members about whether JBS employees are safe or not. One employee, who asked to remain anonymous, says the roll out of COVID-19 protocols and safety precautions has been a slow process.
“Well after I heard about the first case, was when they finally started, like they started with just putting tape on the ground saying this is where people should be. Then they actually started separating hallways. I think the cafeteria was cramped with booths for up until about two weeks ago,” said the anonymous employee.
This employee and many others felt like the protocols put into place should have been done sooner. Cameron Bruett, Head of Corporate Affairs for JBS USA shared this statement with KYOU in regards to the case in Ottumwa.
“We have implemented a wide of range of measures in Ottumwa to combat coronavirus and keep our team members safe. We will endeavor to keep our facilities open to help feed the nation, but we will not operate a facility if we do not believe it is safe. The health and safety of our team members remains our number one priority.
We are mindful of the increasing number of facilities across the U.S. that have experienced decreased production or outright closure. The coronavirus pandemic has affected all of us, and we salute our team members who are working hard each day to continue to feed the country.
Today, every JBS USA facility temperature checks 100% of the workforce before they enter a facility. We use hand-held thermometers and thermal imaging technology to screen every team member and immediately send sick team members home. We also provide and require face masks to be worn at all times on company property. No one is forced to come to work and no one is punished for being absent for health reasons.”
According to the employee we spoke with, there is a map inside JBS Ottumwa with the number of coronavirus cases. Last week it was at 46 and this week that number nearly tripled.
“I’ve seen a map that shows most recently on Tuesday, the highest number I saw on that map was 116." KYOU was unable to confirm this number with JBS USA.
The employee says that for the most part morale inside the facility is the same as normal but attributes that to having no other option. “I think that part of that comes from a lot of us are just like ‘Well, I mean, what else are we gonna do?’ So we’re just gonna have to be there and we’re gonna be working.” This employee says they wish the plant was shut down early on and deeply sanitized before work continued. Mostly they hope that bringing light to this situation can cause more communication between the company and their employees.
In addition to the protocols listed above, Bruett says the following measures were also implemented...