In this file:

 

·         Meat plant workers returning to work

Slaughterhouse operations rebound from COVID-19 outbreaks in time for Memorial Day.

 

·         Workers cheered as they enter South Dakota pork plant

Employees at a Smithfield pork processing plant in South Dakota where a coronavirus outbreak infected over 800 people saw something new as they showed up to work

 

·         ‘They could have done more’: Daughter of Marshalltown meatpacking plant worker blames JBS for his COVID-19 death

·         Meatpacking safety recommendations are largely unenforceable during pandemic

 

 

 

Meat plant workers returning to work

Slaughterhouse operations rebound from COVID-19 outbreaks in time for Memorial Day.

 

By Michael Hirtzer and Jen Skerritt, Bloomberg

via Nebraska Farmer - May 21, 2020

 

The squeeze on U.S. meat is easing. Wholesale prices are falling as slaughterhouses recover from Covid-19 related shutdowns and traders brace for lower demand than usual over the Memorial Day holiday.

 

Enough workers returned to American slaughterhouses that pork and beef plants through Wednesday were operating at 85% and 81%, respectively, of year-ago levels. That’s a rebound from late in April, when production of each meat fell by more than 30%.

 

While the uptick means more product will be available to grocers, the pandemic remains an issue for the unofficial start of summer grilling season with limitations on group gatherings still intact.

 

“It’s prime time for grilling and social events and you’re not seeing the meat features that you typically do,” Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities in Iowa, said by phone. “So it’s disappointing from a demand standpoint.”

 

Wholesale beef prices have declined six straight days, dropping 15% from a record of $475.39, the biggest such drop since 2011, U.S. Department of Agriculture data showed Wednesday.

 

Pork prices climbed for the first time in four days but are still 18% below a five-year high of $121.66 per 100 pounds. Tuesday’s decline of 9% was the largest drop since 2017.

 

Grocers, weeks ago, facing smaller supplies and higher prices for red-meat started hawking other proteins including turkey, seafood and plant-based meat while consumers also pushed back against higher prices. “We’re looking at sticker shock,” Roose said.

 

Thousands of meat-plant workers caught Covid-19, prompting many of the biggest U.S. meat plants to close. Due to still-ill workers and absenteeism, it will likely be weeks or months before the plants can reach full capacity.

 

Slaughter rates in Canada, meanwhile, are also increasing from their lowest levels in four decades...

 

more

https://www.farmprogress.com/business/meat-plant-workers-returning-work

 

 

Workers cheered as they enter South Dakota pork plant

Employees at a Smithfield pork processing plant in South Dakota where a coronavirus outbreak infected over 800 people saw something new as they showed up to work

 

The Associated Press

via ABC News - May 20, 2020

 

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Employees at a Smithfield pork processing plant in South Dakota where a coronavirus outbreak infected over 800 people were greeted at work Wednesday with thank you signs, cheers and waves from about a dozen area residents.

 

“They're putting their health at risk just like the hospital workers are to continue on with this work, so I hope they feel appreciated,” said Becky Olson, a Sioux Falls resident who held a sign outside Smithfield's entrance.

 

The plant has instructed many workers to return to work this week as it looks to scale up operations by the end of the month. Masked employees streamed into the factory entrance as trucks carrying pigs rumbled past.

 

The Smithfield plant, which produces roughly 5% of the nation's pork supply, gave an early warning of how quickly the virus can spread in meatpacking plants that are key to the nation's food supply. Two employees at the plant have died from COVID-19, along with more than 20 meat and poultry workers nationwide.

 

Dave Tesphay, an employee who was reporting to work on Wednesday, said that with the pandemic "it was really scary at first.”

 

Smithfield shut the plant down for three weeks and has installed plexiglass barriers between work stations to prevent infections from spreading. The company is also spreading employees at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart when possible.

 

Tesphay said the plant's closure and safety measures gave him confidence to return. The people who showed up to cheer him on made him feel the community cared, he said.

 

The event...

 

more

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/workers-cheered-enter-south-dakota-pork-plant-70790612

 

 

‘They could have done more’: Daughter of Marshalltown meatpacking plant worker blames JBS for his COVID-19 death

 

By Tyler Jett, Des Moines Register

via The Hawkeye (IA) - May 21, 2020

 

MARSHALLTOWN — It was the night of April 17, and Jose Andrade-Garcia of Marshalltown was gasping for air as he tried to talk on the phone.

 

Andrade-Garcia, 62, a cutter at the JBS pork processing plant in the city, couldn’t finish his sentences, said his daughter, Maria Andrade. Every couple of seconds, he paused to suck in air.

 

Andrade called 911, insisting her father spend the night in the hospital. By 3 a.m., his blood pressure dropping, paramedics rushed him from Unity Point Health in Marshalltown to University of Iowa Health Care.

 

The doctors put him on a ventilator, then on dialysis. They sedated him. His family dialed into his room through the teleconferencing software Zoom, trying to encourage him. He never moved or opened his eyes.

 

Andrade-Garcia, who planned to retire on April 22 after 20 years at the plant, died May 15.

 

“The virus took over his lungs,” said Andrade, 25. “Instead of getting better, it was getting worse. It was hard for him. ... His lungs gave up on him.”

 

She blames Andrade-Garcia’s employer. While JBS spokespeople have maintained that the company has protected workers at its meat processing plants around the country, Andrade said the company should have given employees masks and gloves sooner. She said JBS was also too slow to install dividers that separate workers.

 

Andrade-Garcia began to feel sick the second week of April. He had the symptoms of a typical cold: a cough and some sneezing. But he didn’t get a fever, Andrade said, and JBS’ body temperature scanners didn’t detect any problems. He continued to work for a week, until April 13, when he labored to breathe as he walked to his kitchen.

 

Before Andrade-Garcia began to feel sick, at least 277 JBS employees tested positive for the coronavirus at its Greeley, Colorado, plant between March 1 and April 2, according to the Denver Post. Eight employees at the Colorado plant had died as of Tuesday.

 

In Iowa during that period — the last week of March — the League of United Latin American Citizens showed the Des Moines Register photos from inside the Marshalltown plant. The images showed employees standing elbow to elbow.

 

“They had a good idea around the time dad got sick or even prior,” Andrade said. “I think they had a good idea of what was to come. I think they had time to take action. I think they could have done more.”

 

In addition to spreading workers out and providing protective gear, the company has slowed the speed of the disassembly lines at the Marshalltown plant, staggered start and break times, is cleaning the building every day and is telling vulnerable workers to stay home, with pay, JBS spokeswoman Nikki Richardson said in a statement Tuesday.

 

“We know some people are scared and anxious,” Richardson wrote in an email, “and we are doing everything we can to keep the virus out of our facility.”

 

Worker advocates, state disagree ...

 

Meatpacking towns hit hard ...

 

more

https://www.thehawkeye.com/news/20200521/they-could-have-done-more-daughter-of-marshalltown-meatpacking-plant-worker-blames-jbs-for-his-covid-19-death

 

 

Meatpacking safety recommendations are largely unenforceable during pandemic

Examples have emerged of questionable enforcement efforts and pressure to keeping plants running.

 

Amy Forliti, Associated Press (AP)

via WCNC Charlotte (NC) - May 20, 2020

 

MINNEAPOLIS — Federal recommendations meant to keep meatpacking workers safe as they return to plants that were shuttered by the coronavirus have little enforcement muscle behind them, fueling anxiety that working conditions could put employees' lives at risk.

 

Extensive guidance issued last month by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that meatpacking companies erect physical barriers, enforce social distancing and install more hand-sanitizing stations, among other steps. But the guidance is not mandatory.

 

“It’s like, ‘Here’s what we’d like you to do. But if you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to,’” said Mark Lauritsen, international vice president and director of the food processing and meatpacking division for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

 

The pandemic is “the most massive workers’ safety crisis in many decades, and OSHA is in the closet. OSHA is hiding,” said David Michaels, an epidemiologist who was the agency's assistant secretary of labor under President Barack Obama. Michaels called on OSHA to make the guidelines mandatory and enforceable, which would include the threat of fines.

 

OSHA’s general guidance plainly says the recommendations are advisory and “not a standard or regulation," and they create "no new legal obligations.”

 

But the guidance also says employers must follow a law known as the general duty clause, which requires companies to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards. Critics say that rule is unlikely to be enforced, especially after President Donald Trump signed an executive order in April aimed at keeping meat plants open.

 

Already, examples have emerged of questionable enforcement efforts and pressure to keeping plants running:

 

— Shortly before Trump's order, state regulators in Iowa declined to inspect a Tyson Foods pork plant despite a complaint alleging workers had been exposed to the virus in crowded conditions. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show it took the Iowa division of OSHA nine days to seek a response from Tyson and eight more to get a reply. The state agency ultimately found Tyson's voluntary efforts to improve social distancing at the Perry plant were “satisfactory” and closed the case without an inspection. A week later, 730 workers — almost 60% of the workforce — had tested positive.

 

— In Kansas, the state softened its quarantine guidelines after industry executives pushed to allow potentially exposed employees to continue going to work, according to emails and text messages obtained by The Kansas City Star and The Wichita Eagle. The state had previously advised such employees to quarantine for two weeks, before conforming to the more lenient CDC guideline, which allows employees to continue working if they have no symptoms and use precautions. The move came after Tyson raised a concern with the state of rising worker absenteeism.

 

After Trump's executive order — developed with input from the industry — the Labor Department and OSHA said OSHA would use discretion and consider “good faith attempts” to follow safety recommendations. Employers would be given a chance to explain if some are not met. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made clear in letters earlier this month that the Department of Agriculture expected state and local officials to work with meat plants to keep them running. And he said any closed plants without a timetable to reopen had to submit protocols to the USDA.

 

The USDA did not respond to repeated requests to provide those company plans to the AP. When asked how guidelines would be enforced, a USDA spokesperson said enforcement was up to OSHA.

 

Major meatpackers JBS, Smithfield and Tyson have said...

 

more

https://www.wcnc.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/meatpacking-safety-regulations-unenforceable/507-3e07fa4f-c5a8-43cb-a193-7f0043c7c58d