Stabenow leads Dem senators to push Perdue to protect meat plant workers
A group of 29 Democratic senators led by Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Friday that he should use President Donald Trump’s executive order to keep meat plants open to protect the workers in those plants.
In the letter, they wrote, “While we recognize the importance of keeping these plants running, it is wrong and shortsighted to use the Defense Production Act to mandate plants to stay open without effectively addressing worker safety issues.”
“Prematurely reopening or pressuring unsafe plants to stay open could expose employees to COVID-19. This could then sicken more workers and their families, spread the virus in their communities, and cause further damage to our food supply chain, farmers and ranchers, and rural economies.”
They noted, “The president’s executive order directs you to take appropriate actions to ensure the plants continue operating consistent with the guidance for meat and poultry processing employers jointly issued by the CDC and OSHA.
“However, based on a recent USDA briefing with staff of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, we understand that USDA officials could not confirm if the plants that reopened since the issuance of the executive order are operating in accordance with the CDC and OSHA guidance.”
The senators also urged USDA to ensure that meatpacking plants take sufficient actions to protect worker safety before opening, including reconfiguring the plants to allow for social distancing, providing appropriate personal protective equipment, instituting ongoing testing, ensuring that infected employees are not coming to work, and making other changes to keep workers safe.
They made a set of recommendations to Perdue and included a list of questions that they said they expect Perdue to answer by May 25.
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