Meatpacking plants are a front in the Covid-19 class war (Nation)

Eager to reopen the economy, Donald Trump and Republican governors are taking extraordinary measures to force the poor to do dangerous jobs.

Iowa is currently experiencing some of the fastest-growing rates of Covid-19 infections in America, with Sioux City and Waterloo being particularly hard hit. The meatpacking plants in these cities are the major vectors for the disease spreading — not surprising, considering slaughterhouses are notorious sites of poor health and safety practices. The closing of the Tyson plant in Waterloo on April 22 was forced on the company as employees refused to go to work after colleagues contacted the disease. In explaining the decision to close the Waterloo plant, Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats, cited “worker absenteeism, Covid-19 cases and community concerns.”

It’s notable that Stouffer did not mention any pressure from either Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds or the Trump administration. Reynolds has been among the state leaders most reluctant to close down business. She’s intensely eager for a quick return to economic normality. In a press briefing on Monday, Reynolds said, “The reality is that we cannot stop this virus. It will remain in our communities until a vaccine is available. Instead we must learn to live with coronavirus activity without letting it govern our lives.” In an earlier statement, Reynolds warned that workers who did not return to work would be considered a “voluntary quit” and not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Donald Trump isn’t quite as blunt, but he’s clearly intent on exactly this approach. On Tuesday he gave a major signal that returning to work was the desired goal even in dangerous industries like meatpacking. According to The Washington Post, Trump signed an executive order “compelling meat processors to remain open to head off shortages in the nation’s food supply chains, despite mounting reports of plant worker deaths due to covid-19.” Ominously, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, which he had previously refused to deploy on behalf of commandeering factories to make hospital equipment…

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