SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The union representing nearly 3,000 workers at Smithfield’s Sioux Falls plant sharply criticizing the recently-announced settlement between the pork processing company and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 304A says the “slap on the wrist” settlement fails to hold Smithfield accountable for the nearly 1,300 infected workers and four deaths that occurred as a result of the company’s coronavirus safety shortcomings.
The settlement, announced Monday, fines Smithfield $13,494 for their March 2020 OSHA violation and requires them to develop new infectious disease protocol. UFCW says the agreement allows Smithfield to police itself, with company representatives taking part in the process to evaluate plan safety.
“Our leaders have a responsibility to protect America’s frontline workers who have been bravely putting their lives at risk to keep our country’s food supply chain strong throughout this crisis,” says UFCW Local 304A President B.J. Motley.
Smithfield’s then-CEO Kenneth Sullivan defended how the company handled the outbreak, writing in a 14-page letter to Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker that “the number of our employees lost to this global pandemic is measured in the low hundredths of one percent of our total workforce.”
The Sioux Falls plant closed for nearly a month in early 2020 before being cited by OSHA. Smithfield’s plant closure highlighted just how vulnerable the meat supply chain is – the Sioux Falls plant alone produces around 5% of the U.S. pork supply every day.
Smithfield is the largest pork processor in the world, reporting $14.4 billion U.S. dollars in revenue in 2015.