Attorney General Phil Weiser urges federal government to protect the health and safety of U.S. meat and poultry workers
May 12, 2020 (DENVER, Colo.) — Attorney General Phil Weiser today joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general calling for the federal government to take immediate action to ensure the health and safety of meat and poultry processing plant employees, who have been deemed essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over 10,000 COVID-19 cases and 45 worker deaths have been tied to meat processing plants across the country, including 340 reported positive cases and eight reported deaths at Colorado facilities.
“We need mandatory and enforceable health and safety measures to protect employees at meat and poultry processing facilities. As we have witnessed in Colorado, COVID-19 outbreaks at these facilities threaten to result in wider community spread and put more lives and our food supply at risk,” said Weiser. “There are a set of measures that should be instituted to protect these workers, address the potential spread of COVID-19, and support the goal of keeping the plants open. I commend those meat processing plants who are already instituting such measures and call on others to adopt them as well.”
The incidence of COVID-19 infections among meat and poultry industry workers is serious, with many plants reporting hundreds of workers testing positive for the novel coronavirus. These clusters of infections are also impacting their surrounding communities. At present, however, many plants have continued to operate without instituting adequate health and safety measures. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved new line speed waivers at these facilities that force employees to work faster and closer to one another, creating additional risk.
The USDA is currently allowing facilities to continue to operate under voluntary guidelines for promoting safe working conditions. In their letter, the attorneys general say health and safety standards must be stronger, mandatory, and enforceable, including priority testing for workers in the processing plants; suspension of all line speed waivers; a halt to approval of any additional waivers; immediate access to adequate PPE; 6-foot physical distancing where possible and plexiglass barriers where distancing cannot be achieved; and isolation and quarantine of COVID-19 positive workers, with full pay.
The letter from the coalition of attorneys general can be found here.
Contact: Lawrence Pacheco
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