The North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) has joined with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) to urge all 50 U.S. governors to prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations for frontline meat and poultry workers.
In a joint letter to governors, UFCW and the Meat Institute emphasized that quickly vaccinating the sector’s diverse workforce of some 500,000 employees across the country will maximize health benefits, especially in rural communities that often have limited health services, while keeping Americans’ refrigerators full and our farm economy working.
In a statement, the two groups said COVID-19 vaccinations can, in many cases, be administered through meat and poultry facilities’ existing health programs and staff. UFCW and the Meat Institute committed to assist employees with information and access to off-site vaccination, if needed, and to support vaccine information and education efforts.
“Health authorities around the world, employers, unions, and civil rights groups all agree – high priority access to vaccines is critical for the long-term safety of essential frontline meat and poultry workers who have kept Americans’ refrigerators full and our farm economy working throughout this crisis,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts.
“America’s meatpacking workers are bravely serving on the frontlines so that millions of families can put food on the table during this crisis,” said UFCW International Vice President Mark Lauritsen. “To keep our nation’s food supply secure as the pandemic worsens, we need strong action now from our elected leaders to protect these essential workers in meatpacking plants. As the largest union for America’s meatpacking workers, UFCW is joining industry leaders today in a unified call for governors in all 50 states to immediately prioritize meatpacking workers for access to the COVID vaccine. American lives are at stake and these courageous men and women on the frontlines cannot wait any longer.”
Prioritizing vaccines for frontline meat and poultry workers will build on more than $1.5 billion in comprehensive COVID-19 prevention measures the industry has implemented since the spring, the statement said.
Average case rates amongst meat and poultry workers in November were more than 8 times lower than in the general U.S. population.