More than 140 employees at a Los Angeles meat processing plant have tested positive for coronavirus.
The Vernon plant, called Farmer John’s Slaughterhouse, produces the Dodger Dog—a popular pork hot dog that’s named after LA’s Major League Baseball team and sold at games.
Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor, owns the slaughterhouse. Smithfield was forced to close several of its meat processing plants due to COVID-19, including its pork-processing facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after hundreds of workers tested positive for the coronavirus.
The plant is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the country. It represents four to five percent of all of the country’s pork production. The facility reopened in early May following President Trump’s executive order that slaughterhouses and processing plants remain open during the pandemic.
Employees Call On Plant To Close
Earlier this week, California labor union UFCW Local 770 urged Farmer John’s Slaughterhouse to close immediately. The union represents the majority of Farmer John’s employees.
“Smithfield has not provided full information about what is really going on inside the Vernon plant,” the union’s president, John Grant, told the Los Angeles Times. He added: “Without information, we cannot make an informed decision about workers’ health and safety.”
According to the Los Angeles county’s Public Health Department, Farmer John’s coronavirus outbreak is one of the largest to occur in the county.
According to the LA Times, Farmer John’s says it has taken measures outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to help limit the spread of the disease. Measures include paying employees when they are quarantined, offering free coronavirus testing, providing personal protective gear, and screening for temperatures.
Meat Plant Employees Test Positive For COVID-19
Farmer John’s slaughterhouse isn’t the only meat processing plant to become a hot spot for the virus.
Earlier this month, nearly 900 employees at a Tyson Food’s pork processing plant in Logansport, Indiana, tested positive for coronavirus. This number equates to 40 percent of the plant’s entire workforce. As a result, Tyson was forced to close the facility—along with its largest pork factory in Waterloo, Iowa.
Conditions present inside of meat processing plants create breeding grounds for the coronavirus and other diseases to spread. This was the basis of a lawsuit launched against Smithfield last month.
The lawsuit claims that plant workers are unable to maintain a six-foot distance on the production line. Workers say they are unable to wash their hands frequently. They also find it difficult to request time off when they are sick.