Meatpackers In the Hot Seat

Rewind ten months and you may remember (or maybe you’ve blocked those memories) when U.S. meatpackers were drowning in COVID-19 cases. Now, Congress wants a peek behind the curtain of what really went down.

Why now? Based on “public reports”, Rep. James Clyburn, chair of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, argues that OSHA and the packers didn’t do enough to stop the outbreaks and protect their employees. He’s adamant to determine if everything was on the up and up.

The numbers: Nearly 54,000 workers across 569 facilities tested positive for the virus. At least 270 died.

In letters sent to OSHA, JBS, Smithfield Foods, and Tyson Foods, the committee noted that the outbreaks not only impacted employees but contributed to further spread in the surrounding communities.

The response: All three companies have issued statements welcoming the chance to set the record straight.  Collectively they have spent over $1.5 billion in response to the pandemic in the form of worker protections, pay increases, and donations to support their communities.