WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed an executive order today declaring meat-processing plants essential infrastructure and allowing the Agriculture Department to use the Defense Production Act to force them to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the growing numbers of food and farm workers sickened by the virus, according to a report by Bloomberg News.
The Trump administration has already waived regulations limiting meat-processing line speeds and tried to cut farm and food workers’ pay, and Trump’s Occupational and Safety Health Administration has done little or nothing to ensure these essential workers are protected from the virus and its impacts.
There are at least 6,500 workers from meat processing facilities who are either sick from COVID-19 or in isolation, reported Bloomberg.
In response, here is a statement from Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs:
Sending workers back to meat-processing plants without proper protection is tantamount to a death sentence.
Rather than escalating this danger with reckless fiats, President Trump should be ensuring food and farm workers have adequate PPE, plenty of space to work safely and free testing – not to mention paid sick leave and medical care if they do get sick.
These workers have been on the front lines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, risking their lives to feed the rest of us. President Trump should order OSHA to issue immediate, urgent standards to protect them.
See all of EWG’s work on COVID-19 and Farms.
Updated to clarify that President Trump issued an executive order, and did not invoke the Defense Production Act as previously stated.