LINCOLN, Neb. – More than 900 people have signed a new ACLU of Nebraska petition, calling on local health departments to take action to protect essential meatpacking plant workers.
The petition focuses on the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Crete, Dakota City, Grand Island and Lexington, which all house meatpacking plants that have not fully implemented guidance from the CDC and University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Petition signers are calling for local health department officials to ensure compliance in social distancing of workers, testing, personal protective equipment and paid leave.
Rose Godinez, legal and policy counsel at the ACLU of Nebraska, said the project speaks to both workers’ rights and racial justice because many Nebraska meatpacking plant workers are people of color and immigrants.
“As the daughter of two retired meatpacking plant workers, this is personal to me,” Godinez said. “The Trump Administration’s recent announcement and Gov. Ricketts’ statements declaring meat production as critical infrastructure highlight just how essential meatpacking plant workers are, yet disappointingly fail to recognize that workers’ rights and worker protections are just as essential. Workers’ rights can coexist with sustainable agriculture but not if we’re sacrificing Nebraskans for profit.”
The petition follows a joint letter from Nebraska advocates to Gov. Ricketts, calling for key protections that include six-foot distancing on the processing floor and paid sick leave.