Durbin To Illinois Meat Processing Companies: How Will You Protect Workers From COVID-19 Infection In Light Of President Trump's Executive Order?

SPRINGFIELD – Today, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, wrote letters to five Illinois meat processing companies today asking them to provide information about how they plan to protect workers from COVID-19 infections in the aftermath of President Trump’s executive order to keep meat plants open during the pandemic. In a letter to JBS in Beardstown,  Tysons Meats in Hillsdale, Smithfield Foods in Monmouth, Aurora Packing Company in North Aurora, and Rantoul Foods in Rantoul, Durbin expressed his concern with the President’s executive order for ignoring the health and safety realities of this pandemic that have been repeatedly affirmed by our nation’s top epidemiologists.

“The correct federal response must start with a commitment to worker protection, equipment and testing. Unfortunately, the President’s Executive Order if not properly implemented can endanger the lives of even a wider population of the meat processing workforce and threaten a far broader scope of food processing capacity.  I do not believe this is a responsible course,” Durbin wrote. 

Durbin posed a series of questions to the companies to answer, and welcomed a telephone conference call to discuss operations going forward at meat processing plants in Illinois. According to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), more than 6,500 meatpacking workers nationwide have tested positive or have been forced to self-quarantine, and at least 20 have died nationwide.

Durbin also joined Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today in leading their colleagues on a letter that urges President Trump to take immediate action to amend his Executive Order and mandate that meat processing facilities closed down by State or local health authorities or of their own accord are permitted to reopen only after they have met all of the health and safety guidelines issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A copy of the letter can be found here.

Full text of the letter to JBS is available here.

Full text of the letter to Tysons Meats is available here.

Full text of the letter Smithfield Foods is available here

Full text of the letter to Aurora Packing Company is available here

Full text of the letter Rantoul Foods is available here.