TUKWILA, Wash., April 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- In a blistering Op-Ed released today, the President of the organization representing tens of thousands of workers in Washington State slammed the Trump Administration's decision to sign an executive order forcing meatpacking plants to reopen despite raging COVID-19 outbreaks among their workforces. The Op-Ed, penned by Teamsters Joint Council 28 President Rick Hicks, points to the outrageous risks this move will invite – not just for the workers at the plants who are essentially being offered up as sacrifices, but to the public who will purchase and consume meat potentially packaged by someone infected with the virus.
"This extremely short-sighted decision may ease some fears about going without steak and pork chops – but the cost will be the lives of a mostly-immigrant meatpacking workforce, as well as the potential risks to consumers who purchase and eat meat prepared in a plant riddled with coronavirus," Hicks writes.
"The demographics of the workforces at these plants are almost certainly a factor in Trump's decision," Hicks continues. "Across the United States, the grueling and gruesome work at these meatpacking plants has largely been performed by immigrants, mostly from Mexico – the very group Trump has spent most of his candidacy and Presidency targeting and demonizing. It should come as no surprise that he would be willing to sacrifice their lives in order to keep the meat shelves stocked at American grocery stores."
Hicks goes on to question why this situation was ever allowed to reach this point, and why the nonunion corporate-owned meat plants took no precautions earlier to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through these facilities. "An immigrant nonunion workforce is unlikely to have access to good healthcare, paid sick leave, or a hefty enough paycheck to allow for unpaid time off in the event a worker becomes ill. This is a recipe for sick workers still showing up to process and pack the very meat that we bring home to our families for dinner."
"The fact is, corporate ineptitude led these companies to lay absolutely no groundwork to help insulate themselves and their workforces from the spread of COVID-19, and now when they are faced with the harsh reality of paying the price for these poor decisions, they use fear to manipulate the federal government into bailing them out. Only this time, the bailout isn't just going to cost taxpayer money. It's going to cost lives."
The Op-Ed concludes by reminding working people of the power they have when they stand together and form a Union to help them advocate for their health and safety on the job, and by calling on the public to contact their elected officials and "tell them you are wholeheartedly against Trump's plan to force meat plants to reopen until all worker safety measures are put in place and ordered to be strictly followed."
Teamsters Joint Council 28 represents 58,000 workers at 12 Teamster Local Unions throughout Washington State, Alaska, and the Idaho Panhandle.
Jamie Fleming, (206) 441-6060
SOURCE Teamsters Joint Council 28, Tukwila, WA