The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: meat processing plants

Meatpacking Lobby Wrote Trump’s Executive Order To Keep Plants Open

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

In late April, as COVID-19 raced through meatpacking plants sickening and killing workers, President Donald Trump issued a controversial executive order aimed at keeping the plants open to supply food to American consumers.

It was a relief for the nation's meatpackers who were being urged, or ordered, to suspend production by local health officials worried about the spread of the coronavirus.

Read Now Show less

Something Is Very Rotten At Big Meat, Inc.

Upton Sinclair's landmark 1905 book, "The Jungle," exposed the food contamination and worker exploitation hidden in the fetid stockyards and meatpacking plants of Chicago and other major American cities. The muckraking journalist dubbed the nasty and brutish meat factories "a monster ... the Great Butcher ... the spirit of capitalism made flesh."

The nauseating details of worker and consumer abuses that Sinclair exposed were so horrific that the ensuing public revulsion and outrage were transformative. Congress quickly passed a food purity law (the 1906 Federal Meat Inspection Act), and union organizing drives sparked nationwide contract bargaining that eventually gave long-oppressed meatpacking workers the clout to improve factory conditions and pay. Indeed, by 1970, the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and the United Packinghouse Union had won enforceable safety rules and solid middle-class wages — about $25 an hour in today's dollars. Now the median wage for hourly workers in meatpacking plants is down to about half that — $13.23 per hour — some 30 percent less than production workers in other manufacturing jobs.

Read Now Show less

Meatpacking Companies Dismissed Years Of Warning About Pandemic Potential

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

At the end of June, with hundreds of his workers already infected with COVID-19 and several dead, Kenneth Sullivan, the CEO of Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, sent a pointed letter to two U.S. senators who had launched an investigation into outbreaks in meatpacking plants and industry warnings of an impending food shortage.

Read Now Show less

Trump’s USDA Speeds Up Meatpacking Despite Virus Deaths

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

Trump administration officials may have used misleading data to analyze safety so that meatpacking plants could skirt a safety rule regulating their processes. The rule regulates how fast pigs can be slaughtered.

The USDA Office of Inspector General recently released a report expressing concern about faulty data, as COVID-19 cases soar in the meatpacking industry.

Read Now Show less

Emails Reveal Chaos In Meatpackers’ Response To Virus Outbreaks

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

For weeks, Rachel Willard, the county health director in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, had watched with alarm as COVID-19 cases rolled in from the Tyson Foods chicken plant in the center of town. Then Tyson hired a private company to take over testing, and the information suddenly slowed to a trickle.

Blinded to the burgeoning health crisis, Willard and her small staff grew increasingly agitated. The outbreak had already spread across 100 miles of the North Carolina piedmont, and two workers had died. But nearly a week after Tyson's testing ended in May, the county health agency had received less than 20 percent of the results. The little information it did receive was missing phone numbers and other data, hindering critical efforts to follow up with infected workers, to tell them to isolate and to trace their contacts.

Read Now Show less

Covid-19 Infection Explodes Among Meatpackers Ordered To Return By Trump

The number of coronavirus cases continues to rise at meatpacking plants across the country in the month since Donald Trump signed an executive order forcing plants to reopen.

On April 28, when Trump issued the order, the number of cases stood at roughly 4,000, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Food and Environment Reporting Network. On Friday, the organization reported that at least 20,033 meatpacking workers had confirmed coronavirus cases — a four-fold increase in a month. At least 70 of those workers have died from the pandemic.

Read Now Show less

Wisconsin Judge Says Endangered Meatpacking Workers Aren’t ‘Regular Folks’

The conservative chief justice of Wisconsin's state Supreme Court is under fire after she said this week that meatpackers in Wisconsin who have contracted the coronavirus aren't "regular folks" like other residents of the state.

Chief Justice Patience Roggensack made the comment during oral arguments conducted via teleconferencing on Tuesday in a suit brought by Republican lawmakers against Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' stay-at-home orders.

Read Now Show less

Trump Republicans Care Less About Workers Than Hogs

Reprinted with permission from DCReport.

Donald Trump and Republican legislators behave as if the lives of the immigrants working in meatpacking plants are worth less than the lives of pigs in a slaughterhouse.

Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), a former GOP governor, asked Trump to intervene to keep meatpacking plants open during the pandemic.

Read Now Show less