UFCW to Help Provide Vaccine to Meatpacking Workers

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) announced on Friday that it is helping to provide 12,000 COVID-19 vaccines for meatpacking workers at specific plants in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas.  The plants targeted include one that has led to multiple lawsuits against Tyson Foods.

This announcement follows a previous press release from UFCW claiming that at least 30 states are not doing enough to prioritize vaccine access for “frontline food workers.” The UFCW, which represents workers in food and retail, cited that there have been over 137 deaths of meatpacking workers from COVID-19 and over 21,900 meatpacking workers who have been infected or exposed to COVID-19 during the pandemic. 

“As the pandemic continues, America’s essential food workers continue to face daily COVID risks on the frontlines in meatpacking and food processing plants across the country. UFCW’s new partnerships with state and industry leaders will expand vaccine access to more than 12,000 essential food workers in these plants, helping to prevent the deadly outbreaks we saw last year and keep our food supply secure as this crisis continues,” said Marc Perrone, UFCW International President in Friday’s announcement. 

Nine facilities were listed which UFCW partnerships will provide vaccine access to, including pork and beef plants owned by Smithfield, National Beef, JBS, Cargill, and Tyson. One plant listed is the Waterloo, Iowa Tyson pork plant which has had an outbreak of COVID-19 leading to deaths and at least two lawsuits. 

A lawsuit filed by the family members of workers at the Waterloo plant who died from COVID-19 alleged that Tyson had not taken sufficient steps to protect its employees from the coronavirus, including allegations that managerial employees at the plant placed bets on how many employees would test positive for COVID-19 near the start of the pandemic. The plaintiffs in the suit recently were granted their request to remand the case from the Iowa Northern District Court to the state court, however, Tyson appealed the decision and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals is deciding where the lawsuit will be held. 

Some meatpacking companies have taken steps to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to their employees, specifically, Tyson has announced that it will pay for time employees spend to get the vaccine outside of work hours and is providing the vaccine at some of its plants.