A union representing meatpacking workers in Minnesota is asking JBS Foods to reinstate hazard pay for employees at its Worthington pork plant.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 663 wrote a public letter to JBS Thursday. In it, the union asks the company for hazard pay of $4 or more per hour, citing rising cases of the Delta COVID-19 variant in the state and returning mask mandates, including at the plant.
The letter also calls on JBS to support using money from a $250 million fund from the federal American Rescue Plan set aside by the state Legislature to go toward frontline worker payouts.
UFCW Local 663 represents more than 13,000 retail, meatpacking, food preparation, healthcare and other workers in Minnesota and Iowa. JBS’s plant in Worthington employs more than 2,000 workers.
“Over the last year and a half we have heard repeatedly from members about the stress and physical harm caused by the coronavirus. Unacceptably large numbers of members were infected at work and brought it home to their spouses, children, and community – many who also fell sick,” Local 663 President Matt Utecht said in the letter.
“Now as we hear about members who are testing positive with the Delta variant we are even more adamant that Employers should provide hazard pay.”
Nationwide, UFCW reported a total of 132 meatpacking worker deaths among its members due to COVID-19, along with 22,400 workers infected or exposed to the virus.
In April of last year, JBS shut down its Worthington plant due to a major COVID-19 outbreak. It reopened in early May.