Meat Packing Plant Update: Group files Civil Rights complaint, Cargill faces class action lawsuit

Meat plant worker advocates file civil rights complaints with the USDA. They claim Tyson and JBS have been racially discriminating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a report from the CDC, 87 percent of infection cases among workers affect racial and ethnic minorities and they comprise 61 percent of the workforce. The complaint alleges the companies have disregarded guidance on social distancing, placing those at a higher risk for contracting the virus in a hazardous situation.

In Alberta, Canada, Cargill faces a class action lawsuit. The Guardian Law Group says that the company did not take reasonable precautions to protect workers and is seeking damages for the more than 800 workers who were infected with COVID-19. The lawsuit still needs approval from a judge to proceed.

Michigan has mandated new rules in processing plants. The executive order form the governor includes 17 worker safety requirements. In addition to social distancing, plants are directed to slow down line speeds and processing capacity to reduce the number of workers at the plant. Federal lawmakers also introduce a bill to slow meatpacking line speeds.

USDA implemented a final rule in December to remove federal limits on production line speeds and the Food Safety and Inspection Service has issued almost 20 waivers for plants to move faster in response to increased meat demand. The legislation in the House of Representatives aims to suspend the waivers and stop implementation of the new swine slaughter inspection system. The bill would also keep USDA from using federal funds to make any effort to increase line speeds.