Omaha, Nebraska (AP) — At least 59,000 meat packaging workers were infected with COVID-19 and 269 were killed when the virus struck the industry last year. ..
The meat packaging industry was one of the earliest epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic, as workers stood side by side along the production line.The U.S. House of Representatives Selection Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis used internal documents from the five largest meat packaging companies to report, saying companies could do more. Protect their workers..
New estimates of infectious diseases in the industry are about three times higher than 22,400. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union I was infected. In addition, actual infections can be even higher, as company documentation usually does not take into account cases of coronavirus confirmed by external tests or self-reports by employees.
During the height of the outbreak last spring, US meat packaging production fell to about 60% of normal levels as some major factories. Forced to close temporarily For deep cleaning and safety upgrades, or when operating at low speeds due to labor shortages.According to the report The company was slow Take protective measures such as checking employee temperature, distributing protective equipment such as masks, and installing barriers between workstations.
“Instead of addressing the clear signs that workers are infected with the coronavirus at an alarming rate due to the situation at the meat packing facility, meat packing companies prioritize profits and production over worker safety and viruses. Continued to adopt practices that lead to crowded facilities that spread easily. ”According to the report.
The North American Meat Research Institute industry group has defended the industry’s response to a pandemic.
“Front-line meat and poultry workers were initially affected by the pandemic, but published data are comprehensive, including extensive infection prevention and vaccination efforts implemented since the spring of 2020. We confirm that the measures have succeeded in protecting the sector’s dedicated and diverse workforce, said Julie Anna Potts, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Trading Group. increase.
This report is based on documentation from JBS, Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods, Cargill and National Beef. Together, they dominate over 80% of the US beef market and over 60% of the pork market nationwide.
Cargill, Tyson and JBS issued a statement Wednesday, proactively working to meet federal health and safety standards for coronavirus, conducting extensive testing during a pandemic, encouraging employees to vaccinate, and more. He said he had taken additional steps to protect his employees.
“During the pandemic, we have worked hard to maintain safe and consistent operation. At the same time, we hesitate to temporarily idle or reduce capacity of the processing plant if we deem it necessary. We didn’t, “said Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan.
Both companies regret that the virus was sacrificed.
“Because even one COVID-19 illness or loss of life is too high, we have taken progressive steps to protect the health and safety of our workers, from the start of the pandemic to extensive testing and vaccine requirements. More than 96% of the US workforce is vaccinated, “said Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson.
According to the report, the infection rate was particularly high in some meat packaging factories. For example, 54% of workers at the JBS plant in Hyrum, Utah were infected with the virus between March 2020 and February 2021. Almost 50% of workers at the Tyson plant in Amarillo, Texas were infected during the same time frame. In addition, 44% of employees at the National Beef Factory in Tama, Iowa were infected with COVID-19 from April 2020 to February 2021.
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Report: At least 59,000 meat workers were infected with COVID and 269 died | Work
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