Covid-19 adds to stress on slaughterhouse workers
COVID-19 is having a big impact on slaughterhouse workers, whose job is already considered the most dangerous in the country. The rate of slaughterhouse worker injury is now triple that of other manufacturing and processing jobs. Slaughterhouse worker injuries run the gamut of everything from repetitive motion injuries, to serious cuts and amputations, to a high incidence of certain cancers and autoimmune diseases that are strongly associated with handling meat. Human Rights Watch concludes that slaughterhouse workers have the most dangerous job in America, and even the US Government Accountable Office (USGAO) says that they face much greater risks than other workers.
In addition to all that, these workers now have to face greater risk Covid-19. Almost half the current Covid-19 hotspots in the US are linked to meat processing plants where poultry, pigs and cattle are slaughtered and packaged, which has led to the virus spiking in many small towns. For instance six out of 10 counties that were identified as coronavirus hot spots are home to the very slaughterhouses the government pushed to reopen. For instance the Tyson plant in Perry, Iowa, had 730 cases of the coronavirus — nearly 60 percent of its employees. At another Tyson plant, in Waterloo, Iowa, there were 1,031 reported cases among about 2,800 workers.
Evidently partitions and other mitigating methods have not been enough to stop the spread of the virus. The kill line of animals moves so fast that mistakes and contaminations are bound to happen. Most slaughterhouse workers are the working poor, those with few jobs skills who would have difficulty finding a job in another industry, and many are undocumented immigrants. This makes it even harder for them to have access to medical care, and they’re afraid to complain for fear of losing their jobs.
We feel compassion for these workers who have to work in such a dangerous industry, and face higher risks of Covid-19 as a result. We long for a time when the demand for meat declines to such a level that it is no longer necessary for anyone to have to work in such conditions.