Essential Protections for our Essential Meatpacking Plant Workers

To Governor Ricketts and Nebraska Senators:

I am concerned about the continuously rising COVID-19 cases in Grand Island, Dakota City, Lexington, and Crete, Nebraska. All of these communities have many of our neighbors and family members working at meatpacking plants which have failed to implement CDC or UNMC guidance. These meatpacking plants are governed by your health department.

President Trump and Governor Ricketts have both declared packing plants are essential infrastructure. Meatpacking employees are essential workers. Like other essential workers, including frontline health workers, meatpacking workers deserve and need essential protections.

Please take action by inspecting the meatpacking plants in your jurisdiction to ensure compliance of the following essential protections:

1. Social distancing of workers. Workers should maintain at least 6 feet of distance from each other. Plants can implement other measures to promote distancing, including physical barriers on the production line; slowing line speed; staggering break, entrance and departure times; providing additional rooms for breaks; using single-file movement with a six-foot distance; designating workers to monitor and facilitate distancing on processing floor lines specifically and in all facility spaces generally.

2. Testing. The plants should develop a policy with the local health department for instances when an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. The employee and those in close contact with the employee should be prioritized for testing and quarantining.

3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Plants should provide appropriate PPE to all employees and train on its correct use. PPE should include masks and face shields, which are properly disinfected and cleaned.

4. Paid leave. No employee, especially during a pandemic, should be forced to choose between their health, their family and their job.

Our communities have shown incredible support at local car vigils dedicated to showing solidarity with meatpacking workers because they endure the hardship of working without protection because they cannot afford not to. Now, we need you to take concrete action to protect public health and a strong sustainable ag industry. We must ensure implementation of these protections and policies to save the health and the lives of our neighbors, our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, our food supply, and our economy.