Commentary: As Tyson claims the food supply is breaking, its workers continue to suffer
Between March and April of this year... poultry processing volumes dropped by 12 percent. This news followed numerous outbreaks at meat processing plants, leading to 6,500 cases and 20 deaths among meatpacking workers, as well as widespread closures of facilities owned by JBS and Smithfield... [I]n response to this meat-processing crisis, President Trump issued an executive order declaring that meatpacking plants must stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
... Having been declared “essential,” a common sentiment among [poultry line] workers is that they wish they were treated better than the chickens they process. And this was before COVID-19... Workers have told me that it wasn’t until April 23, after more than 5,000 cases had developed among meat processing workers, that Tyson finally equipped its line workers with personal protective equipment... In spite of CDC guidelines to distance workers and install physical barriers between them, the workers I’ve spoken to say that Tyson complied incompletely or not at all... In spite of the company’s public relations claims, the workers who I’ve seen become infected have not been entitled to pay during quarantine.
... [A]s a nation need to rethink the inhumane working conditions and expectations in these plants. During the pandemic, workstations must be reduced in number so that they can be spaced according to CDC guidelines. When a single infection occurs, the plant where it occurred should be closed, deep cleaned, and workers in contact with the infected worker must be paid while they are under quarantine. They must all have the option to return to their jobs when they are healthy and a disinfected plant is ready to reopen.