Last week, President Trump issued an executive order banning governors from closing meat processing plants, declaring them “critical infrastructure.” Meat-processing plants around the US have been hotspots for the novel coronavirus. Over 5,000 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 20 have died. As a result, many workers are required to work longer and more frequent shifts.
The League of United Latin American Citizens, (LULAC), with more than 60 million members nationwide, along with a coalition of workers, community groups, and elected officials, is supporting a Meatless May Mondays campaign to draw attention to the deplorable conditions meat workers are facing. FFAC stands in solidarity with LULAC and the workers.
Workers in meatpacking facilities, who held some of the country’s most dangerous jobs before the pandemic, are now forced to work without safeguards, including physical distancing policies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and paid sick leave.
These are people who need to work and who don’t have options. Most are poor, uneducated, and foreign-born. Half lack legal authorization to work in the US. They’re desperate for any work they can get and willing to endure horrific conditions.
Factory farm workers routinely inhale hazardous levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide and particulate matter from feces, feed, and fur or feathers. Seventy percent suffer from respiratory illness. Due to the incredibly fast-paced and repetitive nature of the work, workers in meat processing plants are seven times more likely than their counterparts in other private industries to suffer from painful cumulative trauma disorders. As well, there are at least 17 severe injuries a month in US meat plants. These include amputations, broken bones, and head trauma. Most of these workers don’t have health insurance or worker’s compensation, so when they get hurt and can no longer work, they’re on their own.
Every time we purchase meat, dairy, or eggs at a supermarket or restaurant, we’re supporting an industry that flagrantly disregards workers’ rights.
By reducing or eliminating our consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs, we can help put an end to this abusive industry.
Please join us in supporting Meatless May Mondays.
Amy Halpern-Laff is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for FFAC.