As Meat Workers Get Sick, An Executive Order Keeps Plants Open "The link that keeps the food production system going is the workforce. These workers are humans. We have had workers die in this plant. They didn't want to die. This wasn't a choice," said Kim Cordova of the Colorado United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Want to support 1A? Give to your local public radio station and subscribe to this podcast. Have questions? Find us on Twitter @1A.
NPR logo

As Meat Workers Get Sick, An Executive Order Keeps Plants Open

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/847936729/847961186" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
As Meat Workers Get Sick, An Executive Order Keeps Plants Open

1A

As Meat Workers Get Sick, An Executive Order Keeps Plants Open

As Meat Workers Get Sick, An Executive Order Keeps Plants Open

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/847936729/847961186" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

A sign outside the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in South Dakota, one of the country's largest known Coronavirus clusters, is seen in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. KEREM YUCEL/KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
KEREM YUCEL/KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images

A sign outside the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in South Dakota, one of the country's largest known Coronavirus clusters, is seen in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

KEREM YUCEL/KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images

More than 6,000 workers at meat processing and packing facilities have fallen ill to coronavirus. At least 20 have died.

More than 20 meatpacking and food processing plants closed at some point in the past two months. That led to a 25 percent reduction in the nation's pork slaughter capacity.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order for meat processors to remain open to head off shortages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration also issued new guidelines over the weekend.

Questions remain about how safe the conditions are inside these plants and how well the workers are protected.

We talk about what's happening with Jim Monroe, of the National Pork Producer's Council, Amy Mayer, agriculture reporter at Iowa Public Radio; and Kim Cordova, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 7.

We also had the opportunity to talk with a worker we're calling Ben, who tested positive for COVID-19, then returned to work less than two weeks later. He says he was not re-tested.

Like what you hear? Find more of our programs online.