More than 80 percent of frontline meatpacking workers are Black and Brown, more than half are immigrants, and nearly half live in families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the power and the duty to protect these workers from unsafe work conditions, but during the COVID-19 pandemic and for decades prior, it has chosen not to. That decision is costing workers their lives. As experts accuse OSHA of negligence, worker advocacy groups are organizing in unprecedented ways to fight back against the government-sanctioned sacrifice of workers for profits. In July 2020, multiple worker groups filed a civil rights complaint against meat giants JBS and Tyson Foods with the U.S. Department of Agriculture arguing that the companies’ failure to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks is racial discrimination. This panel will focus on the disregard for the lives of meat-packing workers demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic and what can be done about it.
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