A growing number of workers who are crucial to supplying the world with meat are demanding that their companies do more to keep them safe from the coronavirus.
Labor unions are starting to speak out as their members fall ill, there are reports of increased absenteeism and some front line workers have even walked off the job. That’s raising the specter of mass protests that could threaten global meat supplies just as supply chains unravel and grocery stores struggle to keep food on their shelves.
It’s part of the balancing act facing meat and agricultural producers in a pandemic: how to keep the world fed while safeguarding employees. Slaughterhouses and processing plants are sanitizing their operations more, staggering lunch breaks and checking people’s temperatures, but unions say they’re still falling short.
“They’re scared to make that decision that you guys need to be six feet apart because the production is going to plummet,” said Paula Schelling, acting national joint council chairwoman of food-inspector locals for the American Federation of Government Employees.