Screw The Workers, Says Trump, The Meat Must Flow

Pork: it’s the new toilet paper.

Among the many headlines involving the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado has been the plight of thousands of workers in meat processing plants located in predominately conservative agricultural areas of the state like Weld County. At the JBS beef packing plant in Greeley, over 100 confirmed cases led to a very brief shutdown of the plant before controversially reopening late last week. The Denver Post reports:

A fifth employee at the JBS USA plant in Greeley died Sunday after contracting the novel coronavirus, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7.

Four workers at the Greeley beef plant have now died, as well as one person who worked at the JBS corporate office. The death of plant employee Way Ler, 61, comes two days after JBS reopened its Greeley plant after a nine-day closure prompted by the spread of the novel coronavirus among employees.

The plant reopened Friday after the company installed a variety of protections for workers designed to slow the spread of the virus, and most employees will return to work Monday, despite ongoing concerns about worker safety and a lack of testing for employees.

Vice President Mike Pence.

The COVID-19 outbreak at the JBS Greeley plant was sufficiently alarming earlier this month that Vice President Mike Pence himself acknowledged the situation, and promised federal support to test plant workers–as Denver7 reported back on April 10th:

Pence said he spoke with Polis about having those new testing resources for the plant in-state this weekend. [Pols emphasis]

“I want to encourage people in Colorado that we will work to support that effort, but I also want to emphasize that all the people that are working in food supply – from farmers, to meatpackers, to distributors, to truckers, to grocers – continue to have our gratitude,” Pence said.

Unfortunately, Denver7 updated 12 days later:

Contact7 Investigates has confirmed promises from the White House and JBS management to provide testing for employees at the massive meatpacking plant in Greeley have not been kept. [Pols emphasis]

But the plant reopened anyway–and instead of testing for every employee, JBS sent a cease-and-desist letter to Kim Cordova, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 7 telling her in contractually threatening terms to pipe down.

And then, Bloomberg News reported today:

President Donald Trump plans to order meat-processing plants to remain open, declaring them critical infrastructure as the nation confronts growing disruptions to the food supply from the coronavirus outbreak, a person familiar with the matter said…

Trump signaled the executive action at the White House on Tuesday, saying he planned to sign an order aimed at Tyson Foods Inc.’s liability, which had become “a road block” for the company. He didn’t elaborate. [Pols emphasis]

The order, though, will not be limited to Tyson, the person said. It will affect many processing plants supplying beef, chicken, eggs and pork.

It looks to us like Colorado’s meat packing plant workers, many of whom speak English as a second language (if at all) and have been subject to inequities large and small while they labor to supply our nation’s ravenous appetite for meat, have been judged as expendable as the animals they process. As essential as their product may be, if these workers are not afforded the same protection as every other essential worker on the job in this pandemic, it’s going to be hard for anyone with a conscience to enjoy their juicy burger, grilled chicken sandwich, or honey-baked ham.

And we say that as devoted carnivores.

8 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Well, now we know why he did not want to use the Defense Production Act in any meaningful way before this – he could not figure out how to make it be mean to poor people and/or immigrants. Problem solved!

  2. davebarnes says:

    "It looks to us like Colorado’s meat packing plant workers, many of whom speak English"


    It looks to us like Colorado’s meat packing plant workers, many of whom don't understand English

  3. MADCO says:

    I've seen this movie more than once.

    People die everyday doing stoopid stuff- might as well die doing important stuff liking working in dangerous conditions.

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      Testing is so April 15th . . . 

    • kwtree says:

      Easy to say when it’s not your life on the line. I’ve known many of these Greeley families- they are legal refugees, brought in with Ken Buck’s blessing after he deprived the meat plants of half their work force with his  immigration raids in 2006.

      These are Somali families , devout Muslims who pray five times a day on whatever breaks they get from cutting meat, Burmese and Sudanese and Karenni and Hondurans and Mexicans, fleeing cartelistas or warlords or civil war.

      I’ve taught kids who spent the first half of their lives in refugee camps or running from place to place, desperately seeking stability. I’ve taught English to their parents, who come in after a shift to struggle with English verb conjugations.

      They are some of the bravest, most resourceful, most patriotic people you’ll ever meet, because they actually believe in the American dream. They do not deserve to be seen as expendable, “Plug in plug out, so what we’ll lose a few” meat packing machines. If we believe in the American dream, we need to support those who are trying so hard to live it. 

  4. Diogenesdemar says:

    I’m thinking Jared is probably the only logical choice here to head up the nationwide distribution of steaks and chops?

  5. Diogenesdemar says:

    “I Can’t Believe It’ Not . . . 

    . . . Bacon !!?!”

  6. ajb says:

    I think I know where there is a ready supply of replacement workers…

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