Does Cline care about poultry workers in the Valley?

Has Congressman Cline ever shown any interest in the working conditions of employees of poultry processing plants in the Shenandoah Valley portion of his district?

Please correct me if I’m missing something, but I can find no evidence that he has.

The Harrisonburg Citizen website reports:

The Valley’s poultry plants are under increasing pressure, including from concerned workers, to tighten safety measures in an effort to protect against the spread of COVID-19. It intensified [April 27] after an employee at one of the plants died from the virus and as community members led a “car rally” on the workers’ behalf.

A spokesperson for Cargill, which runs the poultry processing plant in Dayton, confirmed Monday evening the death of the employee.

The employee was identified as Lauro Carlos Bautista Lopez, 69, of Harrisonburg. He was near retirement after working at Cargill in Dayton for around 30 years, according to his son.

[Another employee of the plant] said other coworkers have tested positive and are quarantined at home, while others continue to work despite exhibiting flu- and cold-like symptoms. Not all workers who want to get tested for COVID-19 have been able to, including many who worked alongside Bautista in the whole birds area, said the Cargill employee.

In the meantime, the plant is short on workers. And even though the employee suffers from diabetes, which the CDC says could increase the risk of “severe illness from COVID-19,” they said they intend to work as long as possible.

“Everybody at the plant is scared,” the employee said.

In early April, workers at the Pilgrim’s plant in Timberville protested the lack of precautions against COVID-19.

Sal Romero, vice-mayor of the Harrisonburg City Council, said he has been communicating with poultry plant workers via phone and Facebook, where he posts informational videos in Spanish and invites the community to reach out.

“The workers have a lot of fear. They are not feeling that enough is being done. The plants are not providing the PPE (personal protective equipment) workers need to protect themselves,” Romero said. “I think a better job is now being done in the break rooms and staggering breaks. They’ve set up tents and expanded the areas for people to break.”

But, he added, “on the line, it’s still shoulder to shoulder.”

Despite the dangerous conditions at meat and poultry plants across the nation, and over the objections of unions representing workers, the Trump administration has ordered them under the Defense Production Act to remain open.

Trump directed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to “take all appropriate action” to ensure that meat companies continue operating under guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The order did not detail additional precautions companies should take to protect workers, which has led to worries among unions and other worker groups.

The Agriculture Department has deferred to the CDC and OSHA instead of issuing its own rules. OSHA, however, has not imposed mandatory safety rules and instead only issued recommendations.

If workers who fear for their safety stay home, they face dismissal and denial of unemployment benefits.

Again: if any of this concerns Congressman Cline, I have missed it. As far as I can tell, Cline has not spoken a single word of criticism about Trump’s disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We can only dream of Cline responding to Trump’s order as Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and other Democratic senators did:

Among those applauding Trump’s order was the National Turkey Federation, representing the turkey industry.

Cline has received $5,000 in campaign contributions from the NTF so far during the current election cycle.

One thought on “Does Cline care about poultry workers in the Valley?

  1. I had hoped that Ben would be more concerned about working people than his predecessor. Looks like he is on the Trump train where you discard your brain and morals then wait for your instruction from Donald. It’s a shame he could do a lot of good if motivated to do so.


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