Following Select Subcommittee Report Revealing Significant Problems, Major Meatpacking Company Agrees to Change Health Procedures and Policies

Nov 15, 2021
Press Release
Clyburn Releases Statement on Largest U.S. Pork Processor’s New Pandemic Policies

Washington, D.C. (November 15, 2021) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, released the following statement on the U.S. Department of Labor’s announcement of a settlement agreement with Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. under which the company will make systemic nationwide changes to its health procedures and policies relating to infectious diseases.  This agreement follows an October 2021 Select Subcommittee staff memorandum finding that Smithfield and its competitors “prioritized profits and production over worker safety, continuing to employ practices that led to crowded facilities in which the virus spread easily.”

“Smithfield’s commitment to better protect its workers from infectious diseases is welcome but long overdue.  We cannot bring back the Smithfield workers who lost their lives to this virus, or the other lives ultimately lost as a result of the virus’s spread in Smithfield’s plants, but we can learn from these failures to save lives in the future.  Today’s announced settlement agreement is an important step toward that end, and I urge the entire industry to do more to ensure safe working conditions.  

“The fact that it required a settlement agreement to achieve this progress reaffirms what the Select Subcommittee’s investigation has clearly demonstrated: we cannot rely on large corporations to protect the health of their workers for the remainder of the pandemic or during the next one. A strong OSHA, and the Emergency Temporary Standard for vaccination and testing, are essential.  Our investigation continues so that we can ensure that our nation never again fails the workers who feed America.”

The staff memorandum highlighted evidence that the number of coronavirus infections and deaths at meatpacking plants across the country is significantly higher than previously reported.  The memo also revealed that production was prioritized over worker safety throughout the industry, including at Smithfield, which saw at least 9,666 of its employees infected with the coronavirus and at least 25 employees lose their lives during the first year of the pandemic.

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117th Congress