The workers union representing 1,300 employees of Smithfield’s Farmer John plant just south of Los Angeles, California, are calling for its immediate closure in the wake of a coronavirus outbreak.
The company, which makes the Dodger Dog, a delicacy at baseball games, reported 153 cases among its 1,837 employees, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Of the 153, only 14 have returned to work. Smithfield has offered testing to all employees.
The union said the company needs to increase safety measures before reopening.
“Working conditions inside the plant are similar to what we are seeing nationwide in Smithfield plants,” John Grant, the president of UFCW Local 770, said in a statement. “Workers are still too close together on the line, in the breakroom, the bathrooms and other such hubs."
Rina Chavarria, who works at the plant, said in the statement that workers do not feel safe.
“We work hard every day. Smithfield has not taken steps to make sure workers are protected and now so many of us are getting sick. We can’t go to the plant under these conditions. We are paid too little not to work so we call on Smithfield to do the right thing and close the plant while we keep our pay and benefits," Chavarria said.
Some context: President Trump signed an executive order at the end of April aimed at keeping meat-processing facilities open during the pandemic.