Senators Urge Action to Ensure Worker Safety in Meat Processing Plants


Jennifer Shike, FarmJournal's Pork

May 15, 2020


A group of 29 Democratic senators led by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, raised concerns on Friday about President Donald Trump’s Executive Order to keep meat processing plants open.


In a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the senators outlined recommendations for ways the Trump Administration should improve worker safety.


“While we recognize the importance of keeping these plants running, it is wrong and shortsighted to use the Defense Production Act to mandate plants to stay open without effectively addressing worker safety issues,” wrote the Senators.


The Senators urged USDA to ensure that meatpacking plants take action to protect worker safety before opening, including reconfiguring plants for social distancing, providing appropriate personal protective equipment, instituting ongoing testing, ensuring that infected employees are not coming to work, and making other necessary changes to keep workers safe.


On May 8, Perdue applauded the safe reopening of critical infrastructure meatpacking facilities across the U.S. in a USDA release.


These meatpacking facilities have resumed operations this week, directing the facilities to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines specifically created for the meat and poultry sector response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the release said.


USDA, in conjunction with the CDC and state and local health officials, has been working around the clock to ensure a safe and stable supply of protein is available for American consumers all while keeping employees safe.


“President Trump took decisive action last week to ensure America’s meatpacking facilities reopen in a safe way to ensure America’s producers and ranchers will be able to bring their product to market,” said Secretary Perdue in the release. “I want to thank the patriotic and heroic meatpacking facility workers who are returning to work this week so the millions of Americans who depend on them for food security can continue to do so.”


In the letter to Perdue, the senators asked USDA to: