GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) – U.S. lawmakers launched an investigation into occupational safety in meat packers during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the JBS plant in Greeley. The House Select subcommittee on coronavirus crisis is investigating outbreaks and deaths of employees, as well as the response from meat packers and the labor protection agency.
Since the pandemic began, 465 JBS employees in Greeley have tested positive for COVID-19, according to UFCW Local 7. The union reports that six UFCW Local 7 members and one JBS employee have died from the virus.
House Subcommittee Chairman James E. Clyburn sent letters to OSHA and JBS USA asking for documentation of their COVID-19 response. The letter to JBS says in part:
“Public reports indicate that meat packers, including JBS, have refused to take basic precautions to protect their workers, many of whom earn extremely low wages and do not have adequate paid vacation, and have persistently disregarded the health of workers. These measures appear to have resulted in thousands of meat packers becoming infected with the virus and hundreds dying. “
Kim Cordova, President of UFCW Local 7, made the following statement:
“Local 7 calls on the House Select subcommittee to dig deep into the operations of the JBS Greeley Meat Packing Plant and all plants across the country, and hold OSHA responsible for ensuring that these workers are systematically treated as single-use widgets. Our members are the Essential Workers who fed the country for nearly a year in the pandemic, continued to work without proper safety protocols and PPE and, in the case of JBS Greeley, with a 36% increase in health premiums during a pandemic. Both OSHA and meat packers should fulfill their general duty to create safe working conditions for these essential heroes. “
CBS4 reached out to JBS officials to comment on the investigation. In a statement to the Greeley Tribune, JBS stated that it plans to share security logs with the House Panel.
The company recently announced that it would be giving a $ 100 incentive bonus to any U.S. team member who voluntarily opts for a COVID-19 vaccination. JBS employees also state that they offer employees the following security measures:
- Checking and temperature testing before entering the facility
- Breathtaking start and break times to promote physical distance
- Use of masks and face protection,
- Put up physical barriers where possible
- Installation of UV germicidal air purification and plasma bipolar ionization technologies to neutralize potential viruses in the air
The company also ran more than 35,000 free random surveillance tests on asymptomatic team members to quickly identify COVID-19 cases, according to a press release. Overall, the company said it has invested more than $ 200 million in health and safety measures and more than $ 160 million in higher wages and bonuses for employees.