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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.

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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.

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OSHA Failed These Meatpacking Workers — And Now They’re Suing Agency

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

Frustrated by the lack of response to their complaint of the “imminent danger" posed by COVID-19, three meatpacking workers at the Maid-Rite Specialty Foods plant outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania, took the unusual step Wednesday of filing a lawsuit against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia.

The lawsuit, filed in a Pennsylvania federal court, accuses the government of failing to protect essential workers from dangerous conditions that could expose them to the coronavirus. It relies on a rarely used provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act that allows workers to sue the secretary of labor for “arbitrarily or capriciously" failing to counteract imminent dangers.

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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.

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