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May 22, 2020 - Yahoo Finance

Scared and Sick, U.S. Meat Workers Crowd in Reopened Plants

Scared and Sick, U.S. Meat Workers Crowd in Reopened Plants
Pork Plant Worker (Missouri 2017) Credit: Preston Keres

(Bloomberg) -- It’s been three weeks since President Donald Trump’s executive order to keep meat plants running in the pandemic and the government began preparing fresh guidance on how to keep their employees safe. Infections are still on the rise as workers say they’re being forced to put themselves in harm’s way in the name of food security.

Based on 13 interviews with employees, labor representatives and a U.S. government inspector at meat plants in states including Arkansas, Virginia, Nebraska, North Carolina and Texas, employees are still standing elbow-to-elbow along production lines. There are some plastic barriers, but employees haven’t been spaced out in parts of the plants. People with symptoms are still coming in for shifts, afraid of losing income if they call in sick. Protective gear in some cases is of low quality -- thin masks are breaking. With not enough distance between people, the combination could be ripe for the spread of disease.

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