Bill would add protections for meatpacking workers, target industry’s monopolistic practices

A bill introduced in the Senate this week would improve working conditions and whistleblower protections for meatpacking workers while also cracking down on monopolistic practices in the industry. Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, introduced the Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act on Tuesday. In a press release, he called it a “critical piece in transforming our food system into one that is rooted in resilience, fairness, and justice.” (No paywall)

Vaccination rule applauded by unions at meat plants

The Labor Department requirement that large companies vaccinate or test their workers for Covid-19 is a step toward greater worker safety at slaughterhouses and other food processing plants, said labor unions on Thursday. The emergency temporary standard (ETS) sets a Jan. 4 deadline for employees to be fully vaccinated but does not apply to employees who work alone, from home, or exclusively outdoors.

Covid-19 cases, deaths among meatpacking workers three times worse than thought

Five large meatpackers fell staggeringly short of their duty to protect their workers during the pandemic, with at least 269 deaths and at least 59,000 infections from Covid-19 among their employees — roughly three times more than thought — said Rep. James Clyburn, chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Wednesday. (No paywall)

Vilsack sets $700-million program to help farm and meatpacking workers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new $700 million grant program to provide direct financial relief to U.S. farm and meatpacking workers hit hard by Covid-19. But it was unclear whether undocumented immigrants, who make up roughly half of all farmworkers and nearly a quarter of meatpacking workers, would be eligible.

Meatpackers hiring more guestworkers

Nearly twice as many meat-processing plants employ short-term foreign workers than in 2015, "a small but growing trend" in the industry, said an Investigate Midwest report. Seaboard Foods, one of the companies using H-2B guestworkers, said it pays the workers the same wage and provides the same benefits that it gives domestic employees, although the comparatively small number of guestworkers wear a hard hat with an identifying color.

DOJ: Tyson was not directed by federal government to continue pandemic production

The federal government never instructed Tyson Foods and other meatpackers to keep their plants open during the early months of the pandemic, according to the Department of Justice in a recent filing in a federal appeals case. Experts say the brief, along with others filed in the case, is a good sign for the plaintiffs, the relatives of four Tyson workers in Waterloo, Iowa, who died of Covid-19 last spring. It is also likely to have broad implications for other Covid-related lawsuits filed by meatpacking workers around the country. (No paywall)

Biden delay on new workplace Covid-19 standards concerns food worker advocates

In the early days of his administration, President Biden directed the nation’s workplace safety regulator to explore enforceable Covid-19 standards to better protect workers from the threat of the coronavirus. But months later, the new standards have not been issued, worrying advocates concerned about the health of vulnerable workers.

New map shows which states are vaccinating food workers

As the Covid-19 vaccine becomes more widely available, the workers who pick, pack, process, sell, and serve our food have been placed in a range of vaccination priority groups. With FERN's new map, you can search to see where these workers are currently eligible to be vaccinated and, where they're not, when they will become eligible. (No paywall)

Eskin appointed to No. 2 food safety post at USDA

Sandra Eskin, director of food safety for the Pew Charitable Trusts, was appointed deputy undersecretary for food safety, announced the USDA on Tuesday.