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Congressional subcommittee expands coronavirus probe of meatpacking plants

meatpacking workers 2020

A lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives has requested documents and information from Cargill and National Beef Packing Company (National Beef) as part of an ongoing probe into coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants.

Earlier this year, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis sent letters to three of the country’s largest meatpacking firms—Tyson Foods, Smithfield and JBS USA.

“The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis is continuing its investigation into the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on workers in the meatpacking industry,” Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), chairman of the subcommittee, wrote to Cargill and National Beef in separate letters. “We are concerned that the scale of coronavirus infection in American meat processing plants may have been greater than previously believed."

Clyburn added, “These concerns are reinforced by both our initial investigation and press reports alleging that meatpacking companies failed to take adequate precautions to protect their workers’ health during the pandemic—endangering workers, their communities, and the nation’s food supply.”

At least 1,435 workers of National Beef have been infected with COVID-19, while the pandemic has impacted nearly 1,400 Cargill workers, according to a Sept. 15 press release issued by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

White House officials last week wrote that meat-processors have raked in “record profits” during COVID-19, but “at the expense of consumers, farmers and ranchers.” According to the White House, some leading beef, poultry and pork processors have reached historical records in gross profits—with the first two quarters of 2021 ranking as the most profitable quarters in history for some processors.

“These record profits come at a time when consumers are paying more to put food on the table and workers are risking their health and safety to keep America fed,” Clyburn wrote in the letters to Cargill and National Beef. “Taken together, this information paints a concerning picture: a critical industry, amid an unprecedented national crisis, prioritizing the maximization of short-term profits above the well-being of American workers and consumers.”

Clyburn requested from Cargill and National Beef certain information and documents by Sept. 29, including the number of employees who have contracted coronavirus, the number of employees who have died from it and the number of employees fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

He also sought all communications to or from the U.S. agriculture and labor departments, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, White House, and/or White House Coronavirus Task Force, related to the pandemic for the time period March 1, 2020 to June 1, 2020.

Finally, Clyburn requested all documents and plant manager-level and higher communications covering the same time period as above and related to coronavirus outbreaks, infection or deaths among workers at the companies’ facilities or surrounding communities.

Cargill and National Beef did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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