In an open letter released today, A Better Balance, Oxfam, and other labor and health advocacy leaders call on the poultry industry to put into place stronger safety measures and protections for its workers. The recent alarming news that COVID-19 is spreading in poultry plants has highlighted the urgent need for action to ensure the U.S.’s 250,000 poultry workers—who are too often overlooked and undervalued—can stay healthy while supporting themselves and their families and keeping the nation fed.
These workers’ and their families’ health and financial stability must be unequivocally prioritized in recognition of their human rights and dignity, as well as their essential role in keeping our food system running during this emergency. The letter calls for companies to immediately enact measures including:
- Paid sick and family leave
- Reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and workers with underlying medical conditions who request them
- Stronger sanitation and safety protocols, including protective equipment, physical barriers, and safe distancing measures
- Pandemic Premium pay
- Job protection
- Increased communication and engagement with workers
“Poultry workers and their families urgently need stronger workplace safety standards and protections to mitigate the additional risks they are facing during this crisis,” said Dina Bakst, Co-Founder and Co-President of A Better Balance. “We call on the poultry industry to enact fair and equitable workplace policies, including reasonable pregnancy accommodations for workers who request them, and paid leave for workers needing to care for their own health or for their family members. These frontline workers are helping keep America fed—they deserve the strongest protections available to keep them healthy.”
The coalition of organizations backing the open letter to the poultry industry includes: A Better Balance, CATA-The Farmworkers Support Committee, Center for Progressive Reform, Centro Derechos Laborales (Bryan, TX), Greater Minnesota Workers’ Center, Human Rights Watch, Interfaith Workers Justice, Legal Aid Justice Center, National COSH, Nebraska Appleseed, Oxfam America, UFCW, Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, UFCW, and the Western North Carolina Workers’ Center.
Poultry workers are essential workers, now and always, and they deserve these basic protections.