After Weeks on the Sidelines, Perdue to Address Meat Processing Plant Issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. Tonight, after weeks of sitting on the sidelines before finally joining the Trump administration’s COVID-19 task force just three days ago, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will host a town hall to discuss “the USDA’s response to the pandemic and industry issues from outbreaks at meat processing plants to programs aimed at helping farmers.”

“Even after a disturbing number of meatpacker and USDA inspector deaths during this public health crisis, the Trump administration is still failing to demand that companies ensure worker safety,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US. “Sonny Perdue was on the sidelines for weeks as meatpacking plants were ravaged by the coronavirus. It is time for him to begin doing his job to protect meatpackers and our food supply, rather than allowing the Trump administration to continue turning a blind eye to these serious problems.”

Just over a week ago, President Trump stated that meatpacking plants are “now doing very well.” But reporting in recent days has told a very different story: weeks after Trump signed his executive order forcing meatpacking plants to remain open, workers are still facing heightened health and safety risks:

  • COVID-19 infections at meatpacking facilities are increasing at more than twice the national rate.
  • Four USDA inspectors and at least 30 meatpacking workers have reportedly died from the coronavirus as cases continue to spike in these facilities.
  • This weekend, infection clusters at Texas meatpacking plants were cited as contributors to the state’s largest reported one-day total for new COVID-19 cases since the state reopened.
  • As workers are mandated to come in for their shifts, OSHA recommendations are only voluntary — effectively providing employers with immunity while workers put their lives in jeopardy.
  • At at least one meatpacking facility, managers reportedly told workers to come in even if they exhibited signs of being sick.
  • Many workers “say the anxiety around going to work each day has become overwhelming.”
  • Senator Rand Paul suggested at a Senate hearing last week that “in all likelihood… the vast majority of these [meatpacking workers] have immunity.”
  • Despite Secretary Perdue and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia’s insistence that it is safe for workers to show up to shifts to meatpacking facilities, it does not appear that either of them have visited a plant since the COVID-19 crisis began.

###