WASHINGTON – The union representing 6,500 federal food inspectors nationwide is warning about the dangers of President Trump’s executive order requiring meat processing plants to remain open despite numerous outbreaks of the coronavirus.
“This administration seems more concerned with making good on its ‘reopening America’ slogan than protecting the health and safety of front-line workers and American consumers,” American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley said.
“The president’s order will do nothing to improve the unsustainable status quo, where 137 food inspectors and thousands of factory employees across the nation have already tested positive for the coronavirus,” Kelley said. “Without enforceable protections for both front-line plant workers and federal food inspectors, the president’s action will result in more preventable exposures and possibly deaths.”
Thousands of workers employed by meatpacking plants have contracted COVID-19, while 137 federal inspectors have contracted the virus, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. To date, two federal inspectors have died after contracting the virus.
Nevertheless, President Trump issued an executive order Tuesday evening prohibiting plants from closing.
“Federal food inspectors entering slaughterhouses and meat processing facilities lack basic protective equipment, including face masks and hand sanitizer, and social distancing is impossible since they must work nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with front-line plant employees,” said Paula Schelling, acting president of AFGE Council 45, which represents 6,500 federal food inspectors nationwide.
“While the president’s order requiring plants to remain open is mandatory, compliance with the government’s safety guidelines is not,” Schelling said. “The health and safety of federal inspectors and plant workers is in the hands of an industry that the administration is now pressuring to stay open, no matter the costs. Without protective equipment and testing of all workers, more employees will get sick and the safety of our food supply will be compromised. Proper actions are needed today, not months from now. This is a recipe for disaster.”
For the latest news and information about the coronavirus, visit www.afge.org/coronavirus