Trump orders meatpackers to reopen, drawing fire from JBS’ Greeley union

WASHINGTON and GREELEY — U.S. President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to reopen every meat processing plant in the country after several, including the JBS plant in Greeley, were shut down amid coronavirus outbreaks.

Trump signed the order Tuesday, which declares meat processors as critical infrastructure and gives plant owners immunity from injury or wrongful death lawsuits if employees contract COVID-19 within those facilities.

At least 18 major processing plants have shut down temporarily across the country in recent days after outbreaks were reported in employees. That has led to farmers killing livestock and dumping eggs and milk across the U.S. and Canada as processing bandwidth shrinks.

The chairman of meat giant Tyson Foods Co. (NYSE: TSN) warned meat shortages were coming across the U.S. if plants continue to shutter. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent statistics show a record-high 921.4 million pounds of chicken were in cold storage last month, while 502.42 million pounds of beef and 621.9 million pounds of pork are in U.S. storage sites.

County and state health departments forced JBS to shutter its Greeley plant in mid-April to deep-clean the plant and test its 6,000 employees. It reopened on April 24. Five former employees at the JBS plant in Greeley have died from COVID-19 in the past several weeks.

Labor officials decried the declaration, saying Trump is willing to put workers in danger without requiring meat producers to make safety precautions. In a statement, Kim Cordova, president of the United Food and Commercial Worker Local 7, said protecting workers needs to take priority because if plant employees die, the country’s meat supply will become further endangered.

“This policy will ensure that meat processing companies will not be incentivized to provide a safe workplace since there is no accountability, and our members will continue to be in harm’s way on the job,” she said.

 

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WASHINGTON and GREELEY — U.S. President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to reopen every meat processing plant in the country after several, including the JBS plant in Greeley, were shut down amid coronavirus outbreaks.

Trump signed the order Tuesday, which declares meat processors as critical infrastructure and gives plant owners immunity from injury or wrongful death lawsuits if employees contract COVID-19 within those facilities.

At least 18 major processing plants have shut down temporarily across the country in recent days after outbreaks were reported in employees. That has led to farmers killing livestock and dumping eggs and milk across the U.S. and Canada as processing bandwidth shrinks.

The chairman of meat giant Tyson Foods Co. (NYSE: TSN) warned meat shortages were coming across the U.S. if plants continue to shutter. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent statistics show a record-high 921.4 million pounds of chicken were in cold storage last month, while 502.42 million pounds of beef and 621.9 million pounds of pork are in U.S. storage sites.

County and state health departments forced JBS to shutter its Greeley plant in mid-April to deep-clean the plant and test its 6,000 employees. It reopened on April 24. Five former employees at the JBS plant in Greeley have died from COVID-19 in the past several weeks.

Labor officials decried the declaration, saying Trump is willing to put workers in danger without requiring meat producers to make safety precautions. In a statement, Kim Cordova, president of the United Food and Commercial…