COVID-19, News

Advocates for Hispanic workers plead for immediate state action at eastern NC turkey plant

Workers at an NC poultry processing facility.

As the issue of coronavirus outbreaks in meatpacking facilities across the country continues to grow ever more serious, advocates on behalf of the workforce at an eastern North Carolina turkey processing plant are pleading with the Cooper administration to step in and address what they see as an immediate crisis.

In a news release, the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina, Inc. (AMEXCAN) called on Cooper for “immediate governmental intervention toward originating an investigation into the current COVID-19 outbreak at a Butterball in Eastern North Carolina.”

The release cites a recent news story on WITN.com which stated that “documents show a Duplin County turkey plant has more than 50 employees who have come down with COVID-19.”

The WITN story continued:

“WITN has obtained nine memos from Butterball CEO & President Jay Jandrain, the first being on April 13 and the last one from this past Friday. In the memos, Jandrain updates employees on positive cases from within the plant.

According to the memos, the total is 52 Butterball workers with the virus, while the highest number of cases reported so far was on Friday with 11 new cases.

In the memos, the CEO says they continue to follow previous protocol ‘which includes contacting those individuals who have had significant contact with these team members so they can also quarantine for 14 days.'”

According to AMEXCAN:

“Numerous employees at Butterball are Hispanic and have reached out to AMEXCAN to communicate their concern over the rising COVID-19 cases and lack of response to the outbreak at the factory. Employees claim they are required to work even when exhibiting symptoms of the viral infection with the penalty of termination if non-complaint.

Furthermore, entire families, including children, are contracting the virus due to the parent’s exposure to the virus at work. Many of those parents face a difficult decision between exposing themselves and their families to COVID-19 or becoming unemployed.”

AMEXCAN executive director Juvencio Rocha-Peralta went on to say that while his organization acknowledged that the state has “done much to deliver information to Spanish-speaking residents,” there remains a need for a “comprehensive plan” to provide additional information to to his community.

Rocha-Peralta also expressed his concern that the widespread prevalence of the virus at Butterball plant could put consumers at risk.

Note the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website states that “Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. “

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