Meat plant worker outrage over Trump’s order to keep facilities open

Meat workers are threatening that they won't return to work despite President Donald Trump's demand that plants stay open amid fears over the nation's food supply.  Their refusal comes in response to Trump using the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing plants as critical infrastructure. He issued the order in a bid to prevent the shortage of chicken, pork and other meat amid widespread plant closure across the country as stores nationwide grapple with empty shelves amid a huge plunge in production.  However, many employees claim the order puts their lives at stake due to unsafe conditions, a lack of protective equipment and outbreaks that led the nation's three largest facilities shut down.   The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union estimated on Tuesday that 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died from the virus and some 6,500 are sick or have been exposed through the workplace. The union, which represents 1.3million food and retail workers, says at least 13 processing plants have been closed over the past two months.  A worker at Smithfields Food in Crete, Nebraska protests outside the factory demanding protective clothing. Many employees claim Trump's order puts their lives at stake due to unsafe conditions and a lack of protective equipment Near  empty racks of meat due to an increase in demand and growing meat shortages, at Costco in Commack, New York Trump has used the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing plants as critical infrastructure in a bid to prevent the shortage of chicken, pork and other meat as plants across the country have closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks among employees. Above, racks are empty where ground turkey is sold at Western Beef market in Mineola, New York Racks are empty where ground turkey is sold at Western Beef market in Mineola, New York The closures mean pork slaughter capacity has plunged 25 percent and beef slaughter capacity by 10 percent.    Trump signed the measure after companies like Tyson Foods considered keeping just 20 percent of their facilities running. Such a move would have reduced the country's processing capacity by 80 percent.  On Sunday a letter from company chairman John Tyson was published in three US papers that warned American grocery stores would have a depleted supply of meat until plants came back. He wrote: 'As pork, beef and chicken plants are forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain'. Smithfield foods in Crete, Nebraska: Meat workers are threatening that they won't return to work despite President Donald Trump's demand that plants stay open Sign stating restrictions limiting customers to only one package of meat due to increase in demand and growing meat shortages, at Costco in Commack, New York Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Demonstrators stand outside the closed Smithfield Foods pork plant after it was closed due coronavirus cases among employees in on April 17 Smithfield foods in Crete, Nebraska: The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union estimated on Tuesday that 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died from the virus and some 6,500 are sick or have been exposed through the workplace Crete, Nebraska: Latest figures from the US Department of Agriculture reveal that Wholesale Semi trucks American beef now costs a staggering $357.38 per 100 pounds. That is a record high and up 75 per cent from a low in February Crete, Nebraska: While some praised the president's effort to preserve the meat supply chain, others slammed the president for trying to ramp up meat production instead of medical supplies Crete, Nebraska: People have flocked to social media to express concern over the US food supply And the workers' threats come as beef prices surge to a record high, plunging the the US meat industry deeper into crisis and leaving shelves nationwide empty.  Latest figures from the US Department of Agriculture reveal that wholesale American beef now costs a staggering $357.38 per 100 pounds. That is a record high and up 75 per cent from a low in February.   While some praised the president's effort to preserve the meat supply chain, others slammed the president for trying to ramp up meat production instead of medical supplies.  'Everything is on the table,' Kooper Caraway, president of the local arm of the AFL-CIO in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, told BloombergLaw. As of Wednesday wholesale beef now costs $357.38 for every 100 pounds The union represents employees at the shuttered Smithfield Foods Inc. pork plant. He declined to comment on specific actions under consideration. 'If the intention is to make sure that the production is not slowed down too much, this is a short-sighted measure that will end up slowing production more than it would have,' Caraway said.  'They just don't have the workforce to operate the plant at full capacity right now. Unless the president is going to use the military to help operate the plant, I really don't know what he expects the plant to do.'  People have flocked to social media to express concern over the US food supply. One user said causing a 'massive food shortage will bring out more protesters, rioters and hoarders' and another said closing plants would cause 'a real life food crisis'.  Users said that workers needed to be equipped well and that threatening the meat industry would lead to a faster spread of the virus Other users expressed concern over the virus attacking the food chain One user said that closing plants would cause a 'real life food crisis' Trump's order wasn't unwarranted. Smithfield CEO Ken Sullivan warned that the mounting number of plant closures would push 'our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply'. In total the US has about 2,700 slaughter plants, 800 of which are federally inspected.  In response to the president's order, Smithfield pork supplier said they are 'evaluating next steps to open its currently shuttered facilities and will make announcements when it is ready to resume operations in each location.' 'We can tell you our top priority remains the safety (of) our team members and plant communities while we work to continue fulfilling our role of feeding families across the country,' Tyson Foods spokesman Gary Mickelson said.  Meat processing plant workers are voicing their outrage over President Donald Trump's executive order on Tuesday to keep facilities running despite COVID-19 outbreaks  The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union condemned Trump's order saying it puts workers at risk. They estimated on Tuesday that 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died from COVID-19 'All I know is, this is crazy to me, because I can't see all these people going back into work. I don't think people are going to go back in there,' Donald who works at Tyson's Waterloo, Iowa facility said on Trump's order. The plant, above, was shut down on April 22 after 180 workers got infected RELATED ARTICLES Previous 1 Next Marriage rates in the US plunge to the LOWEST on record with... America's biggest mall operator Simon Property Group, whose... Share this article Share
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