RELEASE: Organizations Call on Legislature for Urgent Meatpacking COVID-19

***For Immediate Release***
Thursday, July 23, 2020

Contacts: 

Micky Devitt, Heartland Workers Center
C: (402) 403-9864
micky@heartlandworkerscenter.org

Magdalena Cazarez
Communications Director, Nebraska Appleseed
C: (402) 504-0074
mcazarez@neappleseed.org 

Statewide Organizations Call on Legislature for Urgently Needed Meatpacking COVID-19 Protections

Too many family members at risk, protections cannot wait until next legislative session

NEBRASKA — On Thursday, July 23, 25 Nebraska community organizations, farm organizations, and worker representatives with deep connections to workers across the state, sent a letter to Nebraska’s state senators calling for urgently needed COVID-19 protections for Nebraska’s workers working in meat and poultry plants.

Federal and state regulators have failed to create enforceable standards, and the Governor has failed to act through emergency executive order. We have seen over the last several months that voluntary safety measures have failed to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Nebraska’s meatpacking plants, resulting in illness, death, and plant shutdowns.

Heartland Workers Center Executive Director Sergio Sosa issued the following statement:

We are blessed in the country to have quality meat products, regulated and inspected so that it is safe for our consumption; safe for our family. Behind the high standards of the quality product are essential workers, meatpacking plant workers, who are not being afforded the same level of care and quality protection that a slab of meat gets. While many of our countrymen were at home, social distancing during the last several months due to COVID-19, meatpacking plant workers continued to show up, every day, every shift, so that we would continue to have meat on our tables. And the risks of contamination due to COVID-19 don’t stop with the worker; they go home to their families, their children, and their parents. The number of meatpacking plant workers who have contracted COVID-19 is disproportionally high compared to the general population, and 19 workers have died from it. How many have to die before we take action?  Governor Ricketts, senators, and meatpacking plant managers: It’s time you stood alongside the meatpacking plant workers. It’s time to ACT.”

The letter calls on the Legislature to take immediate action and implement clear and enforceable COVID-19 temporary protections such as:

  • Consistent 6-foot physical distancing between workers on the processing floor
  • Benefits like paid sick leave
  • Effective screening and quarantine practices

Read the full letter to the Nebraska Legislature here.

Statewide community organizations include ACLU of Nebraska, Center for Rural Affairs, Centro Hispano, Children of Smithfield, First United Methodist Church, Gateway District United Methodist Church, The Great Plains Conference, United Methodist Church, Heartland Family Service, Heartland Workers Center, Immigrant Legal Center, Latino American Commission, Mothers and Others: Justice and Mercy for Immigrants, Multicultural Coalition, Nebraska Appleseed, Nebraska Farmers Union, Nebraska Hispanic Bar Association, Nebraskans for Peace, OTOC Immigration and Refugee Action Team, Peace with Justice Ministries, Great Plains United Methodists, Refugee Empowerment Center, Schlegel Center for Service and Justice, Creighton University, Solidarity with Packing Plant Workers, The Trinidad Center, UFCW Local 293, and Unity in Action.

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