... meatpacking companies prioritized profits and production over worker safety, continuing to employ practices that led to crowded facilities in which the virus spread easily. — U.S. House report
... meatpacking companies prioritized profits and production over worker safety, continuing to employ practices that led to crowded facilities in which the virus spread easily. — U.S. House report

What was the [meatpacking] industry's response — not to protect workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, not to separate workers 6 feet apart, which was the earlier guidance that came out in late February — but to just keep on going. — Debbie Berkowitz, Georgetown University's Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor
What was the [meatpacking] industry's response — not to protect workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, not to separate workers 6 feet apart, which was the earlier guidance that came out in late February — but to just keep on going. — Debbie Berkowitz, Georgetown University's Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor

At Least 59,000 Meat Workers Caught COVID, 269 Died
At least 59,000 meatpacking workers caught COVID-19 and 269 workers died when the virus tore through the industry last year, which is significantly more than previously thought, according to a new U.S. House report released Wednesday.

The meatpacking industry was one of the early epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic, with workers standing shoulder-to-shoulder along production lines. The U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which used internal documents from five of the biggest meatpacking companies for its report, said companies could have done more to protect their workers.

The new estimate of infections in the industry is nearly three times higher than the 22,400 that the United Food and Commercial Workers Union has said were infected. And the true number could be even higher because the companies' data didn't generally include coronavirus cases confirmed by outside testing or self-reported by employees.

At the height of the outbreaks in spring last year, U.S. meatpacking production fell to about 60% of normal levels as several major plants were forced to temporarily close for deep cleaning and safety upgrades or operated at slower speeds because of worker shortages. The report said companies were slow to take protective steps such as checking employee temperatures, distributing protective equipment and installing barriers between work stations.

"Instead of addressing the clear indications that workers were contracting the coronavirus at alarming rates due to conditions in meatpacking facilities, meatpacking companies prioritized profits and production over worker safety, continuing to employ practices that led to crowded facilities in which the virus spread easily," the report said.

... The report said internal documents show Smithfield aggressively pushed back against government safety recommendations after experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention inspected its pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota — the site of a major outbreak. A few days earlier, Smithfield's CEO emphasized the severity of the problem when he told the CEO of National Beef in an email that "Employees are afraid to come to work."


Debbie Berkowitz, with Georgetown University's Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, said the industry was slow to respond and federal regulators didn't force them to act.

"When the pandemic hit, of course it was going to hit meatpacking plants really hard and really fast," said Berkowitz, who was scheduled to testify at a House hearing on the report Wednesday. "What was the industry's response — not to protect workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, not to separate workers 6 feet apart, which was the earlier guidance that came out in late February — but to just keep on going."
Read the full article: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/961725