United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
Press Release

UFCW Local 1473 Announces Universal Free Coronavirus Testing for Patrick Cudahy Workers

Agreement Between Union, Smithfield Foods and Local Public Health Authorities Important Step Forward for Stemming the Spread of Virus

CUDAHY – United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1473, Smithfield Foods, Cudahy Health Department and Wisconsin Department of Health Services are announcing free COVID-19 testing for all Smithfield Foods, regardless of symptoms, via on-site testing at the plant. Testing will be offered beginning Friday, April 24th until Tuesday, April 28th, regardless of whether or not you are currently working at the plant or home on leave.

“This is the latest step in ensuring that every dedicated and essential worker at Smithfield Foods in Cudahy is safe and protected,” said UFCW Local 1473 President John Eiden. “We represent workers at more than 15 food processing and meat packing plants and are working to bring universal, free testing to all of them.”

UFCW Local 1473 has continually advocated with both employers and local government officials for improved working conditions and safety at all its facilities, including Smithfield Foods. Important improvements have been made including enhanced access to sick leave, better social distancing both in the plant and in common and break areas, multiple layers of enhanced personal protective equipment and physical barriers in the plant where social distancing isn’t possible.

“Every member deserves to be safe and even one case is too many,” said Eiden. “But we can’t do it alone – we need local governments and companies to step up to ensure that these essential workers have every protection possible.”

For that reason, Local 1473 has repeatedly asked the Governor of Wisconsin to declare food processing and meatpacking workers to be Tier One essential workers to ensure that they have access to both the testing and the protective equipment they need.

BACKGROUND:

  • Starting weeks before outbreak began, UFCW has been pressuring meatpacking and food processing companies at the local and national level to immediately increase the vital protections needed for these essential workers. With each company, our priorities have been:
    • Securing employer-provided personal protective equipment for all workers
    • Emergency pay increases for all essential workers keeping these plants running during this crisis
    • Increased access to COVID-19 testing
    • Allowing workers who are sick or ill to stay home with pay and no penalties
    • Increased cleaning and disinfecting for all sections and equipment in these plants
    • Immediate action to maximize social distancing in these plants.
  • In the case of the Cudahy plant, UFCW repeatedly called for both Smithfield corporate and local plant managers to take action to prevent the spread of coronavirus and protect these essential workers who are vital to keeping the food supply chain strong during the outbreak and has achieved many of their demands.
  • As part of UFCW’s safety efforts, the union trained local shop stewards in the plant on the importance of social distancing, cleanliness and ensuring that workers with symptoms stay home when ill.
  • While every UFCW member working at this plant has access to excellent union-negotiated health care, the union understands the critical need for the company to immediately strengthen safety measures and continues to push for action.
  • These safety measures must include slowing production line speeds to allow for the increased social distancing necessary to combat the spread of the virus and to keep these frontline workers safe in every meatpacking and food processing plant.

Additionally, UFCW Local 1473 has won important safety benefits, as well as pay and benefits that recognize the essential nature of food processing and meatpacking workers at plants other than Smithfield. A sample of these measures include:

  • JBS Green Bay – Additional compensation (a $600 bonus and a $4/hour wage increase). Free onsite coronavirus testing for employees displaying symptoms began April 22 and has expanded to include all employees. Additional layers of personal protective equipment (including face masks and shields), social distancing in the plant and in common areas and physical barriers between workers where social distancing isn’t possible along with temperature checks at the entrance of the plant.
  • Hormel Foods – Additional compensation (two bonuses of $800 for full time workers and $300 for part time workers). Immediate access to short term disability at 100% of wages for COVID-19-related illnesses. Temperature checks for all entering the plant, enhanced personal protective equipment including face masks, increased social distancing in the plant floor and in the common areas.
  • Seneca Foods – Additional compensation ($2/hour pay increase for all employees). Enhanced personal protective equipment including face masks and social distancing throughout the facility.
  • Nestle Gateway/Eau Claire – Additional compensation (12% additional pay). Enhanced personal protective equipment including face masks, face shields, better social distancing where possible and plexiglass barriers where not possible and temperature checks for entrance to the plant.
  • Birdseye/Conagra – Additional compensation ($500 bonus). Layers of personal protective equipment including face masks, better social distancing, plexiglass barriers between workers where social distancing isn’t possible and temperature checks for entrance into the plant. Temporarily closed for safety and cleaning until May 7th with continued pay for employees.
  • Klements – Additional compensation ($70/week bonus). Additional personal protective equipment including face masks and shields, more social distancing and plexiglass barriers where social distancing isn’t possible, additional sanitation stations and temperature checks at the entrance to the plant.
  • Birchwood Foods – Additional compensation ($24/$50/day). Additional personal protective equipment including face masks and shields, slower line speeds for better social distancing, eliminated time clock usage for better spacing, and temperature checks at the entrance.
  • Fair Oaks Farms – Enhanced personal protective equipment and safety measures including N95 masks and face shields for employees, additional sanitation stations, plastic barriers between workers, eliminated time clock usage and better social distancing in common areas, temperature checks before entering the plant.
  • Calumet – Currently closed with employees continuing to receive pay.
  • Van Holtens – Additional personal protective equipment, running partial operations to ensure social distancing while all workers receiving full pay even if not working 40 hours a week, 120 extra hours of sick leave for each workers and plexiglass barriers between workers.
  • Strauss – Additional personal protective equipment including face masks and shields, additional sanitation stations, better social distancing on the plant floor and in common areas and plexiglass barriers where distance isn’t possible.
  • Monogram – Additional compensation ($50/per week). Additional personal protective equipment including face masks, plexiglass barriers between workers and temperature checks at the facility entrance.
  • Smithfield Foods – Additional compensation ($5/hour currently, $2/hour previously), enhanced personal protective equipment including face masks and shields, 1,200 new sanitation stations, partial shut down to ensure sanitation and social distancing while workers continue to be paid, temperature checks at the entrance and universal COVID-19 testing.

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