In this file:


·         Meatpacking Union Calls For Increased Pay And National Company Virus Registry

·         Essential Workers Are Still Dying From Coronavirus



Meatpacking Union Calls For Increased Pay And National Company Virus Registry


By Justin Hicks, Indiana Public Media

June 25, 2020


A labor union that represents meatpacking, grocery and health workers in Indiana is calling for hazard pay and mask requirements at work. It’s part of a broader effort to enforce national workplace health and safety standards amid the pandemic.


The United Food and Commercial Workers union held an online news conference calling for increased pay and safety requirements to be enforced. It would also like for larger companies to put data on workers affected by COVID-19 on a national public registry.  


Dennis Medbourn works at the Tyson Foods plant in Logansport. He said despite mandatory mask wearing and plexiglass barriers, he was one of the roughly 900 workers there who tested positive for the virus.


“By the time most of these things were done, it was too late to have an impact,” he said. “If it had been sooner, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten sick.”


The union said in the meatpacking industry alone...





Essential Workers Are Still Dying From Coronavirus


By Sarah Jones, New York Magazine/Intelligencer

Jun 26, 2020


Governors and mayors around the country are lifting lockdown measures and urging residents to pick normal life up from where they’d dropped it. But the coronavirus is not a historical artifact. Cases are spiking, people are dying, and frontline workers are still in danger from getting sick on the job. 238 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union have now died of the virus, president Marc Perrone said on a Thursday press call. Nearly 29,000 have been exposed to the coronavirus, or are currently ill. That figure includes workers in the retail, meatpacking, health-care, and food-processing industries who make up UFCW’s 1.3 million members.


“The human cost of the pandemic can’t be ignored, and it shouldn’t be hidden,” Perrone added.


But some powerful interests may prefer ignorance. The coronavirus, like any public-health crisis, was political from its genesis. But now it’s partisan, too. President Trump has hit the rally circuit, where going maskless amounts to a sign of devotion. The economy is improving, Trump insists; cases are going down, everything is great. Even some Democrats, like Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, are forging ahead with reopenings, despite the threat of viral resurgence. Essential workers, meanwhile, are caught between a paycheck and illness or death.


To protect these workers, employers and public officials alike would have to admit their reopening strategies may be premature and that masks are necessary, even if they’re slightly uncomfortable to wear. But despite rising cases in Texas, Arizona, and Florida, politics and pecuniary concerns are blocking basic safety measures. According to UFCW, many retail employers still aren’t requiring customers to wear masks. In the meatpacking industry, employer negligence continues to be particularly dangerous: Companies have abandoned workers — and nearby residents — to risk their chances with the virus.


A ProPublica investigation recently found that at plants owned by Tyson Foods, “best practices to protect workers, such as slowing the processing line to accommodate social distancing, installing plexiglass barriers and having workers wear masks, weren’t implemented until outbreaks began to occur.” In the days leading up to an outbreak at a Smithfield Foods pork plant in South Dakota, the company’s CEO told Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts that “social distancing is a nicety that makes sense only for people with laptops.” By late April, there were 783 COVID cases at the South Dakota plant. Two workers at the plant later died. The union estimates that nationwide, 65 meatpacking workers have died from the virus. 38 workers died in May alone, at a rate of over one death per day.


Grocery-store workers also continue to face enormous risks...


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