UFCW Locals call on U.S. Sens. Klobuchar, Smith to support bill protecting meatpacking workers
The Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act would provide funding for hiring additional inspectors and would restrict an employer's use of certain attendance policies.
Unions representing Minnesota workers in meat and poultry slaughter and processing strongly urged Minnesota’s U.S. senators to co-sponsor legislation that protects America's meatpacking workers, and fight for the provisions of this worker safety bill to be included in the farm bill .
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals 1189, 1155 and 663 recently called on U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith to co-sponsor The Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act.
The bill would provide funding through 2027 for hiring additional Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors and related activities. It would also restrict an employer's use of certain attendance policies under which a worker is assessed points for absences with progressive discipline imposed as points accumulate.
According to the unions, the bill, which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and Representative Ro Khanna, would provide essential protections to meat and poultry slaughter and processing workers across the country by strengthening worker safety provisions, increasing transparency and supporting workers in an industry that continues to feel strains resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a joint statement, UFCW Local 1189, 1155 and 663 said that meat and poultry slaughter and processing workers in Minnesota and around the country have "endured one of the most challenging times in our history."
"Risking their health every single day as essential workers to ensure American families were able to put food on the table. While our union fought for and won important safety measures throughout the pandemic, it is critical that Congress pass The Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act to enshrine those safety protections for meatpacking workers into federal law," said the statement. "Together, our unions urge Senators Klobuchar and Smith to cosponsor the Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act and fight for the provisions to be included in the upcoming Farm Bill.”
Phimpha Keomany, a Local 663 member, said the bill would go a long way to ensure the safety for all plant workers.
“By fighting for the safety measures we need and that make a real difference in our plants, the UFCW sets the industry standard for workplace safety," said Keomany. "This bill will be so important in helping enshrine safety standards in law for all meat and poultry workers — both union and non-union alike and allow us to go to work with the knowledge that safety is a priority."
Carolina Peña De Louxz, a Local 1189 member who said she's had a long career in the meatpacking industry, said that safety is everything.
"Passing this bill and securing these safety measures across the nation means peace of mind not just for me but my family as well,” said Peña De Louxz.
Tim Nelson, a Local 1155 member, said he's glad his union is doing its part to "uplfit all workers" with the legislation.
“I’m hopeful that my senators will do the same by supporting this bill,” said Nelson.
In a statement submitted to Agweek, U.S. Senator Tina Smith said that she "appreciated" the call to action by the UFCW Locals.
"Meatpacking is an essential industry, it’s critical to the economy, provides millions of jobs, and feeds Americans from coast to coast. These workers were on the front lines during the pandemic, working to meet demand under uncertain circumstances. Union advocacy is crucial and UFCW leadership led to critical safety measures being put in place during the pandemic," said Smith. "Ensuring a safe workplace is equally important for this industry moving forward. We have worked with UFCW to push OSHA before and understand that safety must be a priority. Senator Booker’s work on this bill is important and we are currently reviewing this proposal to evaluate it further and all opportunities to advance workplace safety, especially in a farm bill year.”