Right now, while so many are fighting the spread of COVID-19 simply by staying home, others are still expected to risk exposure every day in order to perform in-person jobs that have been deemed essential, including jobs in the food supply line.
Although there’s no arguing with the fact that a steady food supply is indeed essential to the U.S’s survival and recovery, many companies are using their “essential” classification as an excuse to disregard safety necessities and common sense, and treat their workers as even more expendable than usual.
Poultry workers have always faced serious threats to their lives and wellbeing every time they report to work, but as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, Georgia poultry plant employees have particular reason to be afraid.
Meat Packing Plants Have Become Virus Hotspots, Thanks to Delayed and Minimal Precautions
According to a recent investigation by The Washington Post, most U.S meat packing plants did not begin implementing basic coronavirus safety measures, like providing workers with masks, until mid-April. As a probable result, more than 30 meat plants have had known coronavirus outbreaks, accounting for at least 3,300 cases and 17 deaths of workers alone. The number of related cases in surrounding communities is unknown.
Plant employees reported that their supervisors, among other irresponsible and abusive practices, had ordered them to work while sick, fired those who informed their coworkers of known exposure risks, and even told them there was no point in protecting themselves, because “everyone had been exposed.”
Poultry Plants Are Staying Open and Ignoring the Risks to Workers
Many meat packing plants have been closed down due to out-of-control infection rates, but production in Georgia poultry plants has remained unchanged.
This is not because the plants have been unaffected by the disease; on the contrary, nearly 400 Georgia poultry workers have tested positive for COVID-19. One Tyson chicken plant in Georgia has had four employees die of the virus, including at least one woman who was allegedly ordered to return to work while symptomatic.
In the immediate future, poultry plant closures are unlikely, no matter how bad things get. An executive order issued on April 28th now requires meatpacking plants to stay open and excuses employers from liability for coronavirus-related deaths. Low-payed workers who never volunteered for this, who have no choice but to show up to work when they’re told in order to keep their families afloat, are essentially being told that it’s now their job to die for the sake of feeding the country.
This is in spite of the fact that poultry plants are actually producing far more product than they can currently sell, due to the plummeting demand from restaurants, and the challenges of suddenly rerouting their products into the grocery store supply line.
The Virus Isn’t the Only Threat to Worker Safety
As more poultry workers die, become too sick to work, or find safer employment, those who remain face greater dangers, not only of disease, but of injury at the poultry plant. Fewer employees churning out the same number of birds at the same pace is a recipe for accidents, which employers are still responsible for. The Stoddard Firm is here to make sure that accountability is enforced.