PRESIDENT Donald Trump said he will sign an executive order making meat plants stay open amid fears over shortages, despite risks from coronavirus.
Trump said Tuesday he plans to sign the order tonight – as unions warn that workers in the plants need more protection as they work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The President will invoke the Defense Production Act to order plants to stay open.
Meat processing will be classified as critical, mandating that plants continue operating during the pandemic.
Previously, Trump invoked the DPA to order General Motors and Ford to create ventilators amid a shortage fear as coronavirus cases erupted in America.
He announced his plans during an event in the Oval Office at the White House on Tuesday, NBC reported.
“We’re going to sign an executive order today I believe and that will solve any liability problems," he said of the mandate.
An official with the Trump Administration explained the executive order to NBC, stating the action is being taken amid rumors that just a fraction of the company's plants would remain open.
“The reason for this EO is there were discussions among certain processing companies (Tysons, for example) to keep only 20% of facilities open," the official told NBC.
"The vast majority of processing plans could have shut down, reducing processing capacity in the country by as much as 80%,” they added.
Around 6,5000 plant workers have fallen sick or been exposed to coronavirus, and 20 people have died, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents 1.3 million people, said Tuesday.
Four major meat plants in the U.S. have closed amid virus outbreaks, sparking fears that the country is days away from massive shortages. The largest 15 pork plants in the U.S. alone account for 60% of pork processed in the country.
Farmers also have feared they would be forced to kill millions of animals they were unable to sell as livestock to plants.
On Sunday, food giant Tyson ran a full-page advertisement in several major U.S. newspapers – including the New York Times and the Washington Post – detailing the difficulty in keeping workers healthy and safe amid the pandemic.
Tyson said in its ad: "The food supply chain is breaking."
The ad continued: "We have a responsibility to feed our country. It is as essential as healthcare. This is a challenge that should not be ignored."
Amid word that the DPA would be invoked to keep meat plants open, some unions expressed upset that action was not taken in early stages of the virus to protect workers.
“If the administration had developed meaningful safety requirements early on as they should have and still must do, this would not even have become an issue," Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Employers and government must do better. If they want to keep the meat and poultry supply chain healthy, they need to make sure that workers are safe and healthy,” he added.
Trump told reporters on Tuesday amid shortage fears "there's plenty of supply."
He added that the plants had hit what he dubbed a "legal roadblock," but ensured that problems would be solved and workers would be safe.
“That’ll solve any liability problems where they had certain liability problems and we’ll be in very good shape,” he said of the executive order.
As of Tuesday, more than one million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the U.S., with over 58,000 deaths.
Source: Read Full Article