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∑ Lawmakers reject effort to address packing plant safety concerns
∑ Rural Coalition Seeking Federal And State Protections For Nationís Food System
Lawmakers reject effort to address packing plant safety concerns
'We just told meatpacking plant workers they are less important'
Andrew Ozaki, KETV Omaha (NE)
Jul 29, 2020
Nebraska lawmakers shot down an effort to add protections for meatpacking workers.
Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas came two votes short of the 30 needed to suspend the rules and introduce a new bill so late in the session.
"We just told meatpacking plant workers they are less important now," Vargas said.
The rejection came just a day after workers, church organizations and community advocates rallied at the Capitol and called for action.
They make up 20% of all the positive cases in the state and 21 plant workers have died.
Many of the employees are minorities and immigrants.
The state's Hispanic population accounts for 60% of the people who have tested positive.
Vargas, whose father died from COVID-19 in April, said the issue is personal.
"In the state, this virus is disproportionately affecting people of color, just like my dad," Vargas said.
Other senators argued not much could be done with only nine days left.
It sets a bad precedent to suspend rules.
State Sen. Mike Groene said the industry has been working with state and federal agencies.
"This issue has already been addressed and we did it through the system," Groene said.
The defeat adds to frustration for some senators like Justin Wayne.
The Omaha senator supported efforts to address pandemic relief such as eviction moratoriums, have control over some CARES Act funding and provide intercity economic relief. All of those efforts have also been shut down.
"At some point, you have to draw a line in the sand and say, 'This is it.' And for me, this session is over with," Wayne said.
Vargas said he has not given up. He wants to find a way to at least hold a public hearing on the matter. He said that will give a voice to workers and the industry...
Rural Coalition Seeking Federal And State Protections For Nationís Food System
Radio 570 WNAX (SD)
Jul 30, 2020
The Pandemic Research for the People Rural Coalition is asking both the Federal and Nebraska State Government to take steps to protect the food system from the negative impacts of the pandemic. Coalition spokesman Graham Christiansen, President Of GC Resolve in Nebraska says theyíve come up with six key steps that need to be taken. He says enforcing and updating anti-trust legislation is the first thing that needs to be done.
He says reform of federal farm policies needs to be implemented as well as re-installment of corporate farming bans in Nebraska.
Christiansen says processing plant workers need better and enhanced protections against the coronavirus as they represent the most important essential workers that ensure the food system operates properly and effectively...
more, including audio [1:27 min.]