The largest union of American meat packers is opposed to the forced reopening of slaughterhouses and factories because the Trump administration cannot yet guarantee worker safety. The union believes that the federal government should oblige slaughterhouses and meat factories to 'work safely' with masks and keep their distance.
Several dozen factory workers have died from the corona so far, and more than 10,000 have been infected with it, says the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents more than 250,000 meat packaging and food processing workers.
In recent weeks articles and photo reports have appeared in the American media about working conditions 'on the assembly line' in the meat processing industry. The pandemic meant that at least 30 meat processing factories were temporarily closed in the past two months due to staff shortages due to illness and absence.
This resulted in a drop in pork production capacity by 40% and a 25% drop in beef production capacity. On Thursday, about 35% of the U.S. pig slaughtering capacity remained inactive, said Steve Meyer, an economist for Kerns and Associates. He estimated that approximately 32% to 33% were inactive Friday.
President Donald Trump forced meat factories to remain open in late April, after companies warned about meat shortages in the United States. The UFCW union has previously said that more protective equipment and tests are needed to reopen the factories.
On Friday, the United States Department of Agriculture said 14 of those closed factories will reopen this week. Agriculture Minister Sonny Perdue applauded the announced reopening, but the union calls it a reckless move that endangers American lives and threatens long-term food security.
The 14 factories to reopen include a Smithfield Foods Inc pig farm in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and another in Waterloo, Iowa, which Tyson Foods said would resume limited operations earlier in the week. The agriculture department also said that JBS USA's meat factories in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and six other Tyson factories, were reopened.