Latin food workers are at risk of contracting the corona virus in their work, which not only risks their health but also the country’s food supply, according to a Hispanic civil rights organization.
In yesterday’s online press conference, leaders of the Latin American Union of Americans (LULAC) discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Hispanic workers in the food supply chain. They say there is virtually no personal protective equipment (PPE) available for workers along the food continuum, from field workers in the fresh produce industry to grocery store workers who store shelves.
The meat and poultry sector was devastated factory closure in place because of a group of infected workers. LULAC officials reported a dozen food factories had closed in the past week.
Domingo Garcia, national president of the civil rights group, said the failure to provide protective equipment for food workers in fields and production plants would end with more coronavirus infections and food supply disruptions. He cited “scrambling for toilet paper and paper towels” in recent weeks and said such food shortages would hit the shelves two to three weeks after supply chain failures.
Dolores Huerta, president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and co-founder of United Farm Workers, also stressed the need for masks and gloves for workers, as well as employee education about social distance. Field workers and workers in food processing plants generally work hand in hand. He said even transportation to and from the fields was dangerous for agricultural workers because of the short distance to the bus and the lack of masks.
The problem at the JBS meat packing plant in Greeley, CO, serves as a case for a press conference. The factory is closed until next week after hundreds of thousands of employees tested positive for COVID-19, also known as coronavirus.
Saul Sanchez’s daughter, a worker with more than 30 years at the factory and who died April 7, said JBS officials at the Greeley factory did not share information about sick and dying workers. On April 14, there were already three employees from the factory who died because of COVID-19.
Beatriz Range, Sanchez’s daughter, said she called the factory office to report her father’s death and no one would talk to her. He still hasn’t been contacted by anyone from JBS, he said.
Kim Cordova, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 from Colorado, representing workers at the JBS meat factory in Greeley, CO, said company officials did not answer questions. U.S./Canada Union membership includes 1.9 million food and food processing workers, according to Cordova.
Echoing other speakers, Cordova said personal protective equipment, payment for illness / danger, and education about safe practices must all be addressed to help ensure food production continues not to be disrupted by coronavirus.
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