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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Meatpacking workers absent after reopen order

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Meatpacking workers absent after reopen order
Meatpacking workers absent after reopen order

Smithfield Foods is missing about a third of its employees at a South Dakota pork plant because they are quarantined or afraid to return to work after a severe coronavirus outbreak, according to the workers’ union.

This report produced by Yahaira Jacquez.

At a Smithfield Foods meat plant in South Dakota about a third of employees have not shown up to work.

That's according to the workers' union.

A labor rep told Reuters the missing staff are either quarantined or too afraid to return after a severe outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

And it's not an isolated case - Tyson Foods was was forced to briefly shut its Storm Lake, Iowa plant in May as worker absences crippled its slaughter operations.

Absenteeism is running high at meat plants - even after President Donald Trump in late April signed an executive order to keep plants running.

But more than a dozen workers, union leaders and advocates told Reuters that many employees still fear getting sick.

And while worker absences vary by plant, and exact data is not available, some employees' unwillingness to return poses a challenge to an industry still struggling to get back to normal levels.

Inside these facilities, hundreds and sometimes thousands of staff work shoulder-to-shoulder to get meat ready for American supermarkets.

Daily pork production was down by as much as 45% in late April when about 20 factories closed due to outbreaks.

With plants now reopening in response to Trump's order - production has rebounded but remains down from before the pandemic, leading to higher prices at the store.

In May - outbreaks tightened supplies and contributed to a roughly 40% surge in prices.

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