President Trump’s Meatpacking Plant Executive Order Puts Thousands of Workers’ Lives at Risk


[Note: An earlier version of this release misstated the extent of the President’s authority to order plants to stay open. He does not have such legal authority under the Defense Production Act.]

Following is a statement from Debbie Berkowitz, program director for worker safety and health with the National Employment Law Project:

“President Trump’s executive order, which purports to require the nation’s meat production plants to remain open, will gravely jeopardize the health and safety of the 500,000 workers in the meatpacking industry.

“More than 3,000 workers in the meat industry have already gotten sick with COVID-19, and 17 workers have died. But instead of requiring meatpacking companies to implement safe practices, the President prefers to shield these corporations from responsibility for putting workers’ lives in danger.

“It’s unfathomable that the administration is still not requiring meatpacking plants to implement the latest CDC recommendations, which include modifying the alignment of production lines, keeping workers six feet apart, and implementing new guidance on break rooms and locker rooms, sanitation, and protective gear. Without these necessary and common-sense protective measures, COVID-19 will continue to spread in these plants and the communities around them.

“The meatpacking industry is already one of the most dangerous industries in the United States, with injury rates twice the national average and illness rates 15 times the national average. The Black, brown, immigrant, and refugee workers who are disproportionately represented in the meatpacking industry will bear the brunt of this dangerous decision.

“Even during a global health crisis, the Trump administration has chosen once again to prioritize corporate interests over the health and safety of working people and their communities.

“This administration needs to step up and issue a federal emergency safety standard to protect all workers, rather than protect the profits of corporate cronies. Unfortunately, the President’s action sends a signal to meatpacking companies that workers’ health and ultimately public health doesn’t matter.”

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Deborah Berkowitz

Worker Health and Safety Program Director, National Employment Law Project

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