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Rally on Wheels Tonight for Smithfield Workers, Against Corporate Exploitation

Que Pasa Sioux Falls, a non-profit media outfit focusing on “enriching, educating, and empowering” the Latino community, is unhappy with Smithfield Foods’ failure to protect its workers from turning its Sioux Falls meatpacking plant into the 15th-biggest coronavirus hotspot in the country. Smithfield waited until 80 of its Sioux Falls workers got covid-19 before deciding it ought to close its facility for three days, over the Easter weekend, to scrub its plant. QPSF is holding a rally on wheels tonight to call for Smithfield to protect and support its workers:

Yesterday it was obvious that Smithfield company is not taking care of its employees and has exposed them to COVID-19, they are our loved ones, friends, families, neighbors!

Smithfield has 3600 employees in Sioux Falls, and over 40,000 worldwide. Therefore, Smithfield employees will not be eligible for Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act or Emergency Family and Medical Expansion Act, found in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. (FFCRA). As outlined in the SD Department of Labor Covid Scenarios current employees at Smithfield are not eligible for any unemployment assistance or pandemic unemployment assistance provided in FFCRA. Smithfield knows this and continues to expose their employees to this hazard without taking proper steps to mitigate the risks of exposure, this is nothing short of irresponsible behavior.

Friends, together with other community advocates will be driving in show of solidarity TODAY at 7 p.m. for employees of Smithfield. We will be starting in Sioux Falls Park and drive along Weber Street. Three days is not enough; employees should get tested, the facilities deep cleaned [Que Pasa Sioux Falls, press release, 2020.04.09].

South Dakota Voices for Justice also contends that Smithfield is failing to take sufficient practical precautions to protect its most vital asset:

State and local health and elected officials said Smithfield is doing what needs to be done. We disagree.

Food production workers are considered “Essential Employees” by the federal government, just like hospital workers. Wearing masks and other personal protective gear, maintaining social distance at 6 feet, sanitizing properly, staggering breaks, and allowing less than 10 people in break rooms at any one time should have been practiced at the Smithfield plant in order to better protect essential workers against COVID-19, and to help flatten the curve. We see skyrocketing numbers instead, with only more to come in the next few days [South Dakota Voices for Justice, press release, 2020.04.08].

SD Voices for Justice recommends making a couple calls, which you could do when you get done driving through tonight’s rally:

We urge concerned community members to act and make their  voices heard:

  1. Contact Smithfield EVP of Public Affairs and Compliance, Kiera Lombardo at 757-365-3000 or email klombardo@smithfield.com and respectfully ask for the following:
    • Assure that the plant in Sioux Falls, SD suspend operation for 3 weeks, offer full wages to all employees during this suspension of operations and fully sanitize the plant to assist in flattening the curve at Smithfield;
    • Assure that all employees be immediately tested for COVID-19 and ensure that all households of those who have tested positive in the past through the future are tested too AND cover testing costs if there is no health insurance coverage;
    • Assure that all employees be given hazard pay, not a $500 incentive called “Responsibility Bonus” to continue to work through a pandemic if they show up to work through the rest of the month! Reports received are indicating that employees who are sick are showing up to work to receive this “Responsibility Pay”.
    • Assure that if an employee has a temperature or any symptoms of COVID-19, the employee  be quarantined at home for 14 days. Reports indicate that those with doctor’s notes saying “high risk” are returning to work and employees with temperatures of 100.3 have also returned to work; and
    • Assure that all employees are shown an instructional video in all major  languages spoken at the plant on how to properly sanitize and how to mitigate risk of exposure upon returning home to families.
  2. Contact the Mayor of Sioux Falls at 605-367-8800  or ptenhaken@siouxfalls.org and ask the following:
    • Assure testing of all employees at Smithfield covering costs if employee does not have health insurance coverage;
    • Assure testing of all Smithfield employee households where employee has tested positive, covering costs if employee does not have health insurance coverage;
    • Because employees of Smithfield will not be eligible for Families First Coronavirus Protection Act,offer monetary employment assistance for those who have tested positive and been exposed to COVID-19 until no longer contagious and can return to work;
    • Track incidences of racism and bias directly related to communities of color and COVID-19 bias;
    • Encourage Sioux Falls Police Department to classify crimes against communities of color with evidence of COVID-19 bias to be classified as a hate crime; and
    • Provide transparent information on the location  of the “hot spots” in Sioux Falls, the steps being taken to test those exposed, the contact tracing measures are taking place, and the way in which those in high risk exposure are being notified.

Senator Mike Rounds was just on the radio this noon continuing his fuss about looking into apparent price-fixing by meatpackers that’s shortchanging livestock producers. Perhaps he can send some aides over to tonight’s rally at Falls Park to show some concern about meatpackers jeopardizing their workers’ well-being, too. Maybe he could call Smithfield and Mayor TenHaken to ask those questions. After all, what good is job creation if the job creator doesn’t keep its job doers healthy?

Besides, Rounds is good pals with Smithfield and TenHaken, so who better to make those calls and get some results for our brave workers?

6 Comments

  1. grudznick 2020-04-09

    Is not John Hormell covering full pay for all these fellows, union or not union? But working in unionized slaughterhouse is something these people should aspire to rise out of by working even harder down the road and getting other employment.

  2. Debbo 2020-04-09

    It’s very disappointing the number of people eager to put $ before lives. It’s not surprising, unfortunately, because the GOP has been doing so for very long time.

  3. jerry 2020-04-09

    Biden has a plan for this. 10/25/2019

    “Former Vice President Joe Biden released a plan Friday to strengthen labor unions. Biden’s proposal would, among other things, give employees more leverage to organize in the workplace, raise the hourly minimum wage to $15 and make it harder for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees.” https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/25/joe-biden-2020-labor-unions-plan-057991

  4. John 2020-04-10

    Wonder if COVID-19 is in your community? Have them test the sewer system. It lurks in the poo. They can find the virus presence a week before symptoms appear or cases are reported. This is also useful to generally determine whether the virus is being carried by folks showing few symptoms.
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-31/coronavirus-in-sewage-portended-covid-19-outbreak-in-dutch-city?cmpid=BBD041020_CORONAVIRUS&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=200410&utm_campaign=coronavirus

    A poo-cast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/hunting-for-the-virus-in-sewage/id1440051086?i=1000471021266

  5. John 2020-04-10

    Great post from Stu at the Argus: https://www.argusleader.com/story/opinion/columnists/stu-whitney/2020/04/09/smithfield-outbreak-sheds-light-south-dakota-covid-19-response/5120160002/

    Stu rips the face off of the slow, obfuscating responses by the state, city, and business.
    It’s the same government gross lack of information and paternalism too often used by incompetent government workers during the Spanish Flu.

    Seriously, does anyone think that if he knew the extent and real details of how SD & Noem mishandles this pandemic, that Dr. Anthony Fauci would “approve”?!

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