Hundreds of COVID cases among Valley poultry workers, but Cline is mum

In a post at Cline Watch earlier this month, I wondered:

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?

After this report in The Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, I’m still wondering:

On May 20, 317 COVID-19 cases were Shenandoah Valley poultry workers, according to an email from a state health official to a local activist and obtained by the Daily News-Record on Tuesday.

The email was sent by Dr. Laura Kornegay, director of the Central Shenandoah Health District, to Michael Snell-Feikema, a local activist and member of Community Solidarity with the Poultry Workers, on Saturday night.


In previous interviews, Hobey Bauhan, the president of the Virginia Poultry Federation, said that plants have made moves to protect their employees from the virus and every plant wants to keep its workforce safe.

[Rockingham County Administrator Stephen] King said the measures have been working.

“I do not think we have a problem with people contracting this virus in the workplace in that particular industry. I can say that with a high degree of certainty,” King said.

Snell-Feikema said he has continued to hear from poultry workers who express concerns about working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. One example he provided is that when on the line, poultry workers stand in such close proximity that social distancing is not possible.

Poultry workers have also spoken to the Daily News-Record, but declined to go on the record, or even speak on condition of anonymity, about their concerns about safety measures at poultry plants in the Valley.

On his Congressional Facebook page, Cline frequently posts advice and information about COVID-19. But not once has he mentioned the outbreak among the mostly Hispanic workers at the Valley’s poultry plants– part of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in his district.

Has he made the effort to talk with any of these workers?

As the representative of these workers in Washington, shouldn’t he want to find out what is causing it (working conditions, living conditions or both), and what can be done to stop it?

Or would doing this raise too many inconvenient questions about the poultry processors who generously support his political campaigns?

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