FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 17, 2020
Contact: Jessica Hayssen, 651-261-8559
Local Union Representing Front Line Workers Say COVID-19 Spreading Rapidly Inside Food Processing Plants, More Social Distance Needed
BROOKLYN CENTER MN – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 663 President Matt Utecht called on JBS in Worthington to slow production speeds to allow for more social distancing on the line to keep workers safe. UFCW Local 663 represents over 1850 workers at the facility.
Several reported cases of COVID-19 have been identified at the JBS pork production facility in Worthington. The plant is the largest pork production facility in Minnesota. UFCW Local 663 President Matt Utecht released the following statement:
“Production line speeds inside JBS and other food processing plants in Minnesota must be immediately slowed to make safe social distancing between workers possible. Allowing six feet between workers is the best and most proven way to flatten the curve of COVID-19 and must be implemented by JBS and other companies without delay.
“Failure to make this critical safety improvement will put our community and our nation’s food supply at devastating risk.
“At a time when schools and restaurants are being closed for the sake of public health, it defies logic to keep the people who make the food we all eat standing shoulder to shoulder while they work.
“This is an incredibly serious situation. If we don’t act now to slow line speeds at food processing plants in Minnesota it will be too late for too many people.”
Lisa Thoma, a union walking steward at the JBS plant said, “Workers are scared and frustrated. JBS needs to slow production lines now for the safety of all us workers.”
UFCW Local 663 and JBS have already enacted strict safety procedures to keep workers safe. Despite the following efforts, we are still seeing a rapid increase of confirmed COVID-19 cases within our plants and are urging line speeds to be immediately slowed to promote six feet of social distancing between workers.
- Plexiglass barriers installed on each table in lunch room to separate two sides and every other seat has been removed
- Cleaning stations and hand sanitizers added throughout plant
- JBS has provided as much PPE as they have been able to source – surgical masks, full face shields, gloves, overcoats, laundry service, etc.
- Deep clean and sanitation was completed over Easter weekend after first positive case of COVID-19 was reported – plant was shut down for three days that weekend
- Outside the plant: there is an 8’ x 40’ structure with an infrared scanning thermometer – before coming into the plant everyone must pass through – if anyone shows a fever, they are pulled out of the line and sent to a nurse who triages, takes oral temp, and determines next steps, including sending workers home if needed
- Designated team of workers who disinfect commonly used surfaces throughout the day (wiping down doorknobs, equipment, high contact areas, etc.)
- Installed plastic barriers between workers on production lines where people are normally in close contact with each other
UFCW Local 663 represents more than 13,200 hard-working retail, meat packing and processing, food preparation and manufacturing, healthcare, and other workers in Minnesota and Iowa. We strive to improve the lives of our members and of all working families by fighting for economic, political, and social justice in our workplaces and communities. Local 663 is part of the 1.3 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.