Colorado IAF, UFCW Stand with Meat Packing Workers Who Died of Covid-19
Friends, loved ones, and fellow union members gathered in Greeley Sunday to remember the six JBS employees who died due to COVID-19. The memorial event was held by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7, which represents many employees at the meat packing plant.
The JBS plant in Greeley was home to one of the state’s earliest and largest coronavirus outbreaks. Since the beginning of April, 281 employees at the plant have tested positive for COVID-19 and 6 have died. According to state data, one employee from the corporate office also died....
“They had a name, they had a face, they had a heartbeat, they had a soul,” said Kim Cordova, president of UFCW Local 7. “We should never let anybody forget what happened to these workers.”
“Employers like JBS must answer for not protecting its vulnerable workers,” said Jorge Montiel, an organizer with the Colorado Industrial Areas Foundation. “City and county and state officials must answer for not ensuring our public health.”
‘They Had a Name, They Had a Face’: Union Honors JBS Workers Who Died Of Coronavirus, CBS Denver
DAI Fights for Poultry Plant Worker Protections in Irving
...workers who labor shoulder to shoulder at the plant and others fear the contagion has spread to more people in the Dallas area. Sick workers who do not get themselves tested could spread the virus when they are out and about or when they return to the plant.
“The workers at these plants are essential workers, especially now,” said auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly of the Dallas Catholic Diocese. “They help keep the food supply chain intact for all of us… They are particularly vulnerable because of the kind of work that they do and in greater need of protection at this time. Just as the state has done elsewhere in Texas, they should require testing of their employees for the safety of all."
Josephine Lopez-Paul, an organizer for Dallas Area Interfaith, said she is organizing a plan to assist those families. “It’s in our collective interest to protect these workers,” Lopez-Paul said. “The state also has a responsibility to these workers.”
[Photo Credit: Ryan Michalesko, Dallas Morning News]
Experts, Activists Want Virus Testing at Meat-Processing Plants to Prevent Community Spread, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
DAI, Church Stands with Poultry Workers in Irving
At St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Irving, Rev. Ernesto Esqueda said the church will support the workers with food and other needs during the pandemic.
“We are all walking on the same path, and our close ties mean we help and will continue to help so that these persons don’t feel forgotten or abandoned,” Rev. Esqueda said. “As a church, we work for them and with them.”
The priest said the church is also working with the nonprofit Dallas Area Interfaith and government authorities to find help for workers and parishioners.
One church leader in the interfaith group, Cecilia Avalos, said many of the Brakebush workers are vulnerable Spanish-speaking immigrants, and she knew of a worker who quit when the plant wouldn’t allow the worker to self-quarantine after exposure to an infected worker.
“There is such an outcry among people,” Avalos said.
[Photo of plant by Google Street View]
40 Workers At Irving Poultry Plant Test Positive for Covid-19, The Dallas Morning News [pdf]
40 Empleados de Planta Procesadora de Pollo Dan Positivo a COVID-19, Dallas Al Día [pdf]
VOICE-OKC Urges Governor to Protect Grocery Store Workers
Clergy from across the state are urging Gov. Kevin Stitt to designate these grocery workers as first responders, hoping that this recognition will help them in more ways than one during the COVID-19 crisis.
"They are literally risking their lives to be with the public every day, ensuring that families across Oklahoma can have access to the food they need in order to survive," the Rev. Diana Davies wrote in a recent letter emailed to Stitt.
Davies, senior minister of First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City, wrote on behalf of 40 Oklahoma clergy and religious sisters affiliated with Voices Organized in Civic Engagement. The group, also known as VOICE, is a coalition of more than two dozen metro-area congregations and nonprofits.
In her letter, Davies said giving grocery workers the first responders' designation would recognize the workers for the "vital role" they are playing in the current emergency but also help draw down federal funds that would keep more money circulating in Oklahoma.
She said the federal dollars could be used for childcare for grocery workers' families, medical testing for the coronavirus should they need it, treatment for COVID-19 if necessary and greater access to personal protective equipment.
"Our organization represents thousands of families across Oklahoma, and many of our loved ones are working tirelessly in stores to keep our supply chains functioning," she wrote. "We would love to tell them that our governor honors their courage and their service at this time."
[Photo Credit: Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman]
Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Clergy Urge Governor to Protect Grocery Workers, The Oklahoman
Coloradans for the Common Good Leverages Grocery Worker Win: Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Childcare
At the urging of Coloradans for the Common Good and the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), Governor Jared Polis expanded the consideration of "essential workers" to include food and grocery store workers on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis. The protections include emergency paid leave and child care, and will benefit 20,000 grocery store and commercial food processing workers across the state.
In a meeting with the Governor, faith and labor leaders successfully made the case that grocery store workers are essential and should be eligible for supports then-available only to front-line medical workers.
[Photo Credit: Mykal McEldowney / IndyStar]
Colorado Emergency Child Care Expands to include Grocery, Construction Workers, Chalkbeat [pdf]
What About Grocery Store Workers? Advocates Push Colorado to Extend Emergency Child Care, Chalkbeat [pdf]
In Wake of Wage Theft, Valley Interfaith Calls for Incentives Reform and Investigations
In small group conversations organized through their congregations, Valley Interfaith leaders Elisa Alfaro of Holy Spirit parish and Dayra Campos of San Juan Diego kept hearing the same stories: workers in cold storage facilities earning less than the minimum wage and experiencing rampant labor abuse.
While the federal minimum wage is $7.25, parishioners shared that they are often paid less than half that by McAllen producers. When one company closed access to the bathroom for employees, they were forced to walk 10 minutes to a gas station for their bathroom break. Another parishioner shared constant threats by their boss if they were to admit working 10 hours per day for $600 per month (less than half the minimum wage).
In response, Valley Interfaith leaders are calling on the City of McAllen to ensure that no company that pays workers under the minimum wage, or is guilty of wage theft, receives incentives from the city. They are also calling on the City to investigate abusive labor practices. Leaders are now meeting with the McAllen Economic Development Corporation and McAllen City Manager about making these changes.
"Nobody should earn a slave wage," said Elisa Alfaro.
[Image Credit: KVEO footage]
Faith Leaders, Lawyer: Wage Theft Rampant at Local Cold Storage Facilities, The Monitor [pdf]
Produce Industry Wage Dispute, KVEO [pdf]
Fair Pay a Distant Dream for Produce Packers in the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio Express-News
Spokane Alliance Wins 'Sick & Safe' Leave for Local Workers
More background here, Spokane Alliance
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