President To Keep Meat Plants From Closing

Workers process beef at a Tyson plant

Workers process beef at a Tyson plant

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order compelling meatpacking plants to stay open, despite a string of coronavirus deaths, in a bid to secure U.S. food supplies, the White House said Tuesday. His predecessors have used it on numerous occasions, although it's rarely been invoked for anything having to do with the food supply chain.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents 1.3 million food and retail workers, said Tuesday that 20 food-processing and meatpacking union workers in the USA have died of the virus.

Trump on Tuesday told reporters that "there's plenty of supply", but that supply chains had hit what he called a "legal roadblock". The plant closed over the weekend to undergo a deep cleaning. Meat processing giant Tyson Foods suspended operations at its plant in Waterloo, Iowa. Unions fired back, saying the White House was jeopardizing lives and prioritizing cold cuts over workers' health.

"Given the high volume of meat and poultry processed by many facilities, any unnecessary closures can quickly have a large effect on the food supply chain". What reopening Georgia looks like.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the order before its release, said the White House was also working with the Labor Department to provide enhanced safety guidance for meatpacking workers.

Like lambs to the slaughter?

After testing over 600 employees at the plant, it was re-opened. In the week since the county has seen cases increase to 1,346, but without test results, she said on Monday she could not determine how many were linked to Tyson.

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Although an exact number isn't known, many students don't have internet access, Cooper said. But vulnerable populations will be highly encouraged to stay at home during this period.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said late Friday that livestock and poultry producers face an "unprecedented emergency" after large processing plants have slowed or closed.

Without strict adherence to safety guidelines - which are not now being deemed "mandatory" by OSHA - it's not hard to picture new outbreaks at factories, or resurgences of the virus in factories that shuttered but reopen prematurely.

The coronavirus has already affected thousands of meat industry workers.

Tyson Foods drew attention to the issue in full-page advertisements in the Sunday editions of The Washington Post and other newspapers. "There will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are now closed". Some have been forced to euthanize their pigs. Iowa produces one-third of the nation's pork supply, according to the state officials. And Smithfield Foods halted production at its plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

What do the unions say?

At least 22 meat plants have closed in the last two months, reducing pork processing capacity by 25% and beef processing capacity by 10%, according to UFCW.

Some of the nation's largest slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants have been forced to close due to the outbreak of the virus, which will impact protein processing of beef, pork and chicken - a cornerstone business in America's heartland.

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