Remember how those thieving meatpackers lied to us about meat shortages at the start of the coronavirus pandemic? Smithfield and other Big Meaters didn’t just use those lies to pressure the Trump White House to issue an executive order in April 2020 ordering wiener factories to stay open despite the risk of spreading covid-19; they helped write the order to allow them to keep cranking out sausage regardless of the mortal danger they knew their workers faced:
It’s been reported that the meatpacking industry wrote a draft version of President Donald Trump’s executive order, but the new Congressional investigation shows that Tyson Foods — mostly in collaboration with Smithfield Foods — authored the specific language that the industry pushed to federal officials. Similar language in Tyson’s draft would appear in the finalized executive order signed a week later.
…The report, compiled by the staff of the House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis and released Thursday, reveals that the country’s largest meat companies coordinated with each other — and with political appointees at the federal agency charged with their regulation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture — to keep meatpacking plants operating at maximum capacity while thousands of workers were infected in the COVID-19 pandemic’s early months.
Meatpacking industry leaders understood the threat coronavirus posed to their employees, emails show. But rather than enforcing safety measures, such as social distancing and masking, the companies instead asked the federal government to exclude them from public health measures meant to protect employees from illness and death [Madison McVan, “Tyson Foods Authored Draft Version of Trump’s 2020 Executive Order to Keep Meatpacking Plants Open During Covid-19 Pandemic, Emails Show,” Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, 2022.05.12].
The House Subcommittee reports that over 59,000 meatpacking workers were infected with coronavirus and at least 269 died. But rather than take more precautions to protect workers, Mark Kaminksy of Koch Foods said in a May 22, 2020, email that the meatpackers shouldn’t have to do anything more than take employees’ temperatures and send them home if they had fevers, and lobbyist Ashley Peterson of the National Chicken Council replied, “I agree with you Mark. Now to get rid of those pesky health departments!”
In a crisis, the Big Meat corporations don’t want to do their part to protect their workers and their communities from harm. They want to keep exploiting workers and shut down the public agencies that check their power and protect the public.