Concerns about a possible food shortage are growing as more meat processing plants around the country shut down.
In a national news conference call on Thursday, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said the country’s food supply is in danger if meatpacking workers don’t get help from the federal government.
“We will have food supply issues, which is why it’s important for our government to get active and they should’ve gotten active last month,” said Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International VP for Meatpacking.
UFCW said 13 plants have closed at some point in the last two months. The closures have resulted in a 25% reduction in pork slaughter capacity and 10% reduction in beef slaughter capacity, union officials said.
“It will, in fact, create some shortages at the stores. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” said Marc Perrone, UFCW International president. “America’s food supply depends on these workers. It feeds America.”
Perrone believes 10 meatpacking workers and three food processing workers have died. He said 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers have been impacted by the virus.
In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, UFCW International called for the White House Coronavirus Task Force to prioritize five safety actions targeted toward the meatpacking industry.
The union is demanding increased worker testing, priority access to PPE, halting line speed waivers, social distancing mandates, and isolating workers with symptoms and/or those who tested positive for COVID-19.