Chiewelthap Mariar was about three years old when his family, Christians from South Sudan, fled the aggression of the Muslim-led government in the north. As Ted Genoways writes in FERN’s latest story, published with The New Republic, Chiewelthap was shot and killed at the plant on Jan. 9 by a Guymon police officer, apparently during a dispute with his managers over his work assignment.
A FERN analysis of investigation data released by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD)—which is tasked with enforcing federal child labor laws—found that more than 75 percent of recent violations were committed by employers in the food industry.
More children would be eligible for free school meals and the WIC program would cover children up to age 6 under legislation approved on a party-line vote by the House Education and Labor Committee on Wednesday. While the bill’s Democratic sponsors claimed it will reduce child hunger, Republican Rep. Lisa McClain said it “is chock-full of new spending” when austerity is needed to dampen high inflation.
By disregarding the health and safety of their employees, some of the most prominent companies in the food industry have created situations that led to workers being injured or killed on the job, according to a new report by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), an advocacy group.(No paywall)
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
Sandra Eskin, director of food safety for the Pew Charitable Trusts, was appointed deputy undersecretary for food safety, announced the USDA on Tuesday.
The USDA would be barred from allowing faster line speeds at hog and poultry slaughter plants during the pandemic under companion bills filed in the House and Senate on Thursday. Sponsors said the legislation would protect worker safety.
The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis launched an investigation Monday into the spread of Covid-19 at meatpacking plants during the course of the pandemic. The committee sent letters to the country's top meatpackers — JBS, Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods — as well as to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), requesting scores of information on the entities' management of the spread of the virus among meatpacking workers, with a response deadline of Feb. 15.(No paywall)
On January 23, after a tense, week-long strike led by Teamsters Local 202, 1,400 employees of New York City’s Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market—the world’s largest wholesale produce market—reached an agreement with management that includes the biggest raise Local 202 has ever won through bargaining. The victory was the latest in a series of actions by the Teamsters, as the pandemic has ignited long-simmering labor disputes at food-distribution centers across the country.(No paywall)
The Labor Department, in issuing stronger worker-safety guidelines called on employers to conduct a hazard analysis and implement measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus on the job. The recommendations include the use of face masks and reconfiguring work spaces so workers are at least six feet apart.
The nation's top workplace safety enforcer, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, will explore issuing enforceable workplace safety standards to protect workers from the spread of Covid-19 as part of President Joe Biden's new pandemic strategy. Labor advocates and congressional Democrats have pushed for enforceable standards for the duration of the pandemic, arguing that the existing voluntary guidelines for employers don't go far enough to protect workers.