Blog | July 6, 2020

Farm Aid Stands with Meatpacking Workers for COVID-19 Protection

Nearly 40,000 food workers, a majority of whom are meat workers, have tested positive for COVID-19. At Tyson Foods, the world’s second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork, the infection rate is double that of other meat companies; more than 8,500 Tyson employees have been confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19. Tragically, more than 25 Tyson workers have died from the virus. Tyson’s failure to properly protect its workforce from the spread of this deadly virus is a prime illustration of how little the company cares about its employees—who are predominantly people of color and immigrants—in spite of its aggressive media efforts to portray the opposite.

The people who grow, raise and process the food we eat deserve a safe and healthy work environment!

Farm Aid joins more than 120 workers’ rights, food justice, animal welfare, racial justice, farmer, health, consumer safety, and environmental protection organizations to lift up demands prioritized by Venceremos, a worker-led organization organizing with Tyson and other poultry workers on the ground in Arkansas. These are their demands:

  • Provide paid leave during quarantine for all workers who test positive for COVID-19 and to those workers who were in close contact with the infected individual;
  • Provide personal protective equipment to all workers including new respirators on the production floor at the beginning of every shift, with appropriate fit testing and training on proper donning and doffing procedures, in languages workers understand;
  • Ensure workers can practice physical distancing and slow down line speeds for poultry, swine, and cattle, regardless of whether a waiver has been granted to operate at higher slaughter speeds
  • Ensure daily testing is available for workers and their communities;
  • Be transparent and publicly disclose all COVID-19 cases;
  • Stop all lobbying efforts pressuring USDA to grant line speed waivers in all species + halt all applications to the USDA FSIS for higher speed slaughter waivers
  • Respect workers’ rights to freedom of association, to organize a union and to bargain collectively, free from retaliation, as recognized by the UN through its International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions.
  • Implement systems and policies to both protect workers from retaliation and encourage workplace safety and risk reporting, in order to ensure that all workers report any workplace safety lapses or symptoms of illness. This would include education for all employees and reporting mechanisms for workers’ safety and health concerns.
  • Eliminate the point system that results in unfairly firing workers who miss a certain number of shifts, including those who are legitimately afraid to go back to work because of unsafe working conditions due to COVID-19.

Forcing workers to continue working without protective measures and in small spaces have led to more than 30,000 COVID19 cases reported at meatpacking plants. The people who grow, raise and process the food we eat deserve a safe and healthy work environment!

To raise your voice for meatpacking plant workers, visit

Read the letter signed by Farm Aid below:

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