Illinois Unidos Calls on Food Packing Industries to Comply with COVID-19 Safety Protocols

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Business

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers in food processing and manufacturing industries have faced the unfathomable decision between going to work and putting their health at risk, or staying home and putting their job and income at risk. Many of these workers face unsafe working conditions, intimidation from their employers, and no sick benefits, preventing them from making a safe choice for themselves and their families.

Illinois Unidos (formerly the Illinois Latino COVID-19 Initiative) calls on these industries to reevaluate the treatment of their workers and to follow all state and federal health and safety workplace guidelines. Illinois Unidos asks government officials to use their oversight power to ensure workers in these industries are protected, safe and empowered to keep themselves, their families, and their communities healthy without retribution from their employer.

“Essential doesn’t mean expendable, but that’s how corporate giants have consistently treated working people throughout the coronavirus pandemic,” said Congressman Jesús G. “Chuy” García. “Workers are facing the double burden of doing their jobs in uncertain times while fighting for labor rights and protections. We need safer working conditions, especially in industries where Latinos are disproportionately endangered, like manufacturing and food processing.” 

Latinos make up a significant proportion of the food processing workforce in Illinois, Recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  puts Illinois in the top 6 states in total number of COVID-19 cases among workers in meat and poultry facilities between April and May 2020 (26), total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among workers (1,029), and total number of COVID-19-related deaths (10).

Jorge Mújica, Strategic Campaigns Organizer at Illinois Unidos member organization, Arise Chicago stated, “Why are there rising numbers of COVID-19 infections in the Latino community? Because Latinos disproportionately work in low-wage, unsafe jobs. They were unsafe jobs before the pandemic. Now they are dangerous and even deadly. Bad employers aren’t protecting their workers’ lives. Period. And that’s why the pandemic keeps spreading. Bad employers need to be held accountable.”

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Business

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