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Union seeks to prioritize vaccination of nation’s meat and poultry workers

Union seeks to prioritize vaccination of nation’s meat and poultry workers

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The nation’s largest union for meatpacking workers and the association representing meat producers joined forces to urge all 50 U.S. governors to urgently prioritize COVID-19 vaccination for frontline meat and poultry workers across the United States, in accordance with official Centers for Disease Control guidance.

Nebraska is the nation’s second largest red meat producer behind Iowa.

In a new joint letter to governors, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the North American Meat Institute emphasized that quickly vaccinating the sector’s diverse workforce of some 500,000 employees across the country will maximize health benefits, especially in rural communities that often have limited health services, while keeping Americans’ refrigerators full and the farm economy working.

COVID-19 vaccinations can, in many cases, be administered through meat and poultry facilities’ existing health programs and staff. UFCW and the Meat Institute committed to assist employees with information and access to off-site vaccination, if needed, and to support vaccine information and education efforts.

Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts said health authorities around the world, employers, unions and civil rights groups all agree that “... high priority access to vaccines is critical for the long-term safety of essential frontline meat and poultry workers who have kept Americans’ refrigerators full and our farm economy working throughout this crisis.”

UFCW International Vice President Mark Lauritsen said that America’s meatpacking workers are “bravely serving on the frontlines so that millions of families can put food on the table during this crisis.”

“To keep our nation’s food supply secure as the pandemic worsens, we need strong action now from our elected leaders to protect these essential workers in meatpacking plants,” Lauritsen said. “As the largest union for America’s meatpacking workers, UFCW is joining industry leaders today in a unified call for governors in all 50 states to immediately prioritize meatpacking workers for access to the COVID vaccine. American lives are at stake and these courageous men and women on the frontlines cannot wait any longer.”

Prioritizing vaccines for frontline meat and poultry workers will build on more than $1.5 billion in comprehensive COVID-19 prevention measures the industry has implemented since the spring, according to the organizations.

Average case rates amongst meat and poultry workers in November were more than eight times lower than in the general U.S. population.

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