Meatpacking workers are staying off the job, despite Trump’s order to reopen.
“Smithfield Foods Inc is missing about a third of its employees at a South Dakota pork plant because they are quarantined or afraid to return to work after a severe coronavirus outbreak, according to the workers’ union.
Tyson Foods Inc was forced to briefly close its Storm Lake, Iowa plant – a month after U.S. President Donald Trump’s April 28 order telling meatpackers to stay open – as worker absences hobbled its slaughter operations.
Nationwide, 30% to 50% of meatpacking employees were absent last week, said Mark Lauritsen, a vice president at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).
More than a dozen meatpacking workers, union leaders and advocates told Reuters that many employees still fear getting sick after losing confidence in management during coronavirus outbreaks in April and May. Absenteeism varies by plant, and exact data is not available, but some workers’ unwillingness to return poses a challenge to an industry still struggling to restore normal meat output.
Daily pork production was down by as much as 45% in late April as some 20 plants closed because of outbreaks. Production has rebounded since plants reopened last month in response to Trump’s order, but remains down from before the pandemic. The UFCW union, which represents about 80% of U.S. pork and beef production, told Reuters that major pork plants are running at about 75% capacity.”
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