President Trump has issued an executive order compelling meat plants across the nation to stay open during the COVID-19 crisis. Declaring the plants “critical infrastructure,” Trump signed the order under the Defense Production Act, which concerns industrial production in the event of emergency. The order, made on April 28, has been met with skepticism and resistance from meat plant workers across the US.
An Executive Decision
“It is important that processors of beef, pork, and poultry (‘meat and poultry’) in the food supply chain continue operating and fulfilling orders to ensure a continued supply of protein for Americans,” the president’s order read. “However, outbreaks of COVID-19 among workers at some processing facilities have led to the reduction in some of those facilities’ production capacity.”
The president went on to criticize plant closures amid the pandemic. “Such closures threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency,” he said. He then invoked the Defense Production Act to “ensure that meat and poultry processors continue operations consistent with the guidance for their operations jointly issued by the CDC and OSHA.”
Will Meat Plants Comply?
Workers have been quick to push back against the executive order, expressing skepticism that it would be fully obeyed. “All I know is, this is crazy to me, because I can’t see all these people going back to work,” a Tyson chicken worker going by Donald told CNN Business. “I don’t think people are going to go back in there.”
Another Tyson worker told the outlet, “I just don’t know how they’re going to do it when there are people dying and getting really sick. Who’s to say people are even gonna show up to work?”
Union officials are also criticizing the order. “We only wish that this administration cared as much about the lives of working people as it does about meat, pork and poultry products,” Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said per the New York Times.
Meanwhile, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Parrone said, “While we share the concern over the food supply, today’s executive order to force meatpacking plants to stay open must put the safety of our country’s meatpacking workers first,” per the Times.
President Trump also told media personnel during his announcement that his administration was working with Tyson Foods on the matter. While Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson told press he hadn’t read the order, he told CNN, “We can tell you our top priority remains the safety (of) our team members and plant communities while we continue fulfilling our role of feeding families across the country.”