Meatpackers’ Walkout Defies Trump’s Executive Order

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Following Trump’s invocation of the Defense Production Act to re-open the meatpacking industry, more than 50 workers at a Smithfield plant walked out in defiance of their company’s decision to remain open despite having announced a day prior they would close.

Tyson Foods via AP

Trump announced that he will use the Defense Production Act to keep meat processing plants open, despite massive outbreaks of COVID-19 among meat processing workers. At a Smithfield pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 800 workers tested positive for example. The same conditions have spurred COVID-19 outbreaks at meat plants from Minnesota and Wisconsin to Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia.

As a result of these outbreaks, as well as strikes and mass sickouts at a dozen meatpacking plants throughout the U.S. meatpacking plants have been forced to close. This is just one sector that has been fighting back alongside a growing wave of strikes, stoppages, and protests among “essential workers,” like at Amazon, GE, and autoplants.

Trump is now forcing them to re-open.

Shortly after Trump announced this inhumane executive order, more than 50 meatpackers walked off the job at a Smithfield plant in Nebraska. Forty-eight of their co-workers tested positive for the disease and they had been promised the plant would close. Instead, shortly after Trump’s announcement, they were sent an email with a “new plan” that involved reducing work hours. 

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A worker at the plant who wished to remain anonymous said, “I was happy about it [the plant shut down] but then I went to work the next day and I heard that they weren’t shutting down I was really mad,” said the employee. She said she wanted to take a leave of absence, but couldn’t because it would mean quitting her job.

The workers argue that conditions are still unsafe: “We’re like five people on the line or more and it’s really close and we don’t have room at all,” said an employee.

“It makes me feel like they don’t care about us,” said the employee. “That they just care about the money and the production. They don’t care about what’s happening to us or what we think about it.”

With continued unsafe conditions and Trump’s executive order, we will likely see a rise in walkouts. 

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