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.

Vital workers deserve more than “Thank you”

Thank you, Congressman Cline, for recognizing the hard and selfless work being done by millions of Americans to help sustain us during the COVID-19 emergency.

But Congressman: Many of these absolutely essential workers are at or near the bottom of the ladder when it comes to pay, health care and job rights. Now that we can see how vital they are, I hope you will agree that they deserve more than thanks. They deserve living wages, guaranteed access to health care, paid sick leave and basic on-the-job protections– and not just during pandemics.

Unfortunately your voting record as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and as a member of Congress does not reflect a serious concern about these inequities. I hope the current circumstances are causing you to do some serious rethinking. Your constituents will be watching.

Cline’s statement on the CARES Act

To his credit, Congressman Cline overcame his usual objections to “big government” and deficit spending to support the more than $2 trillion CARES Act relief package responding to the COVD-19 emergency.

Unfortunately Cline couldn’t resist taking a shot at Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He rarely does resist. (Congressman: We know by now that Pelosi is your go-to target when you want to denounce “progressives” and “liberals.” But it’s possible that at a moment when most Americans believe government should be doing more, your rhetoric is ringing hollow.)

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I hope Cline will inform us of which provisions he disagrees with and provide us a list of the items on “Speaker Pelosi’s progressive wish list” of which he disapproved.

Cline will hold town hall in Rockbridge County on March 18

Sixth District residents will have a chance to ask Congressman Cline about his vote against the coronavirus response bill and other matters at a town hall on Wednesday March 18 from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at VFW Post 1499, 105 Memorial Lane, Lexington (between Lexington and Buena Vista).

You may register here.

Citizens of Rockbridge County will be given priority regarding comments during the town hall.

Cline votes NO on coronavirus response bill

The Washington Post reports:

The House overwhelmingly passed an economic relief bill early Saturday for the coronavirus, dedicating tens of billions of dollars for paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, free testing and other measures to help Americans impacted by the crisis.

The 363-40 vote — gaveled down just before 1 a.m. — capped two days of volatile negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that threatened to fall apart entirely for hours Friday amid GOP misgivings. But even after President Trump criticized House Democrats at an afternoon news conference Pelosi and Mnuchin kept at it, speaking by phone 13 times in the course of the day Friday and finally clinching a deal.

Not long thereafter Trump endorsed the legislation over Twitter, ensuring widespread GOP support.

“This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers,” Trump wrote, adding that he was directing Cabinet secretaries to issue regulations ensuring small businesses would not be hurt by mandates in the bill.

“I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES! I will always put the health and well-being of American families FIRST,” the president wrote. “Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”
…..
The agreement reached Friday is primarily aimed at expanding the safety net to cope with the potentially catastrophic economic impact of the coronavirus. In addition to ensuring free coronavirus testing, the plan would dramatically increase several benefits, particularly family medical leave and paid sick leave, while also bolstering unemployment insurance; spending on health insurance for the poor; and food programs for children and the elderly.

Congressman Cline joined 39 other Republicans to vote NO– the only member of Congress from Virginia to do so. It’s unfortunate that in a rare instance when he defied Trump’s wishes, it was to oppose a vital measure to protect the health and well-being of all Americans in a national emergency– especially low-income workers and those with few resources.

Cline likes to remind us: “In one of my first speeches after being sworn in, I reintroduced four words to Congress that Washington needs to hear again and again: we can’t afford it.” However he is very selective about what he thinks we can and can’t afford.

In case you were unaware, Congressman: Sometimes there are moments when we can’t afford not to act.

Update: Cline tries to justify his vote. Surely he must understand the gravity and urgency of the situation. I’m not sure why he’s smiling.

 

Cline will hold town halls in Amherst County and Buena Vista on March 16

Congressman Cline will hold town hall meetings on Monday March 16 in Amherst County and Buena Vista.

The Amherst County town hall will take place from 8:30 AM – 10 AM at the Amherst-Monroe Ruritan Club, 115 Bruner Road, Monroe, VA. (Register here.)

The Buena Vista town hall will take place from 5 PM – 6:30 PM at American Legion Post 126, 1953 Magnolia Ave., Buena Vista, VA. (Register here.)

Among the questions participants may want to ask is whether– given current circumstances– Cline will support legislation requiring employers to provide paid sick leave so low-wage workers (of whom there are many in the Sixth District) can afford to stay home when they are ill rather than going to work and possibly infecting others.

 

Cline’s Q4 campaign finance report

During the first nine months of 2019, Congressman Cline’s campaign committee reported raising $302,528.31.

Now the reporting is in for the all of 2019. Cline’s receipts for that year total $390,860.81, which means he collected more than $88,300 between October and December.

Some noteworthy donations to Cline’s 2020 campaign during the fourth quarter:

–Dell Technologies: $2,500

–Amazon: $2,500

–Verizon: $2,500

–Microsoft: $1,000

–WalMart: $1,000

–Raytheon: $1,000

During the same period, Cline paid $21,257.95 to Republican fundraising consultant Laura Kilgore McMenamin of Alexandria.

Two-faced Ben Cline

The Lexington News-Gazette reports on Congressman Cline’s town hall meeting in Lexington on Tuesday:

Congressman Ben Cline began by chronicling his efforts to “reach across the aisle” in Washington, but many residents called into question his sincerity, city divisive rhetoric on past occasions.

When he speaks to largely Democratic audiences, as he did in Lexington, Cline likes to talk about his supposed unhappiness with the partisan divisiveness in Washington and his alleged efforts to achieve bipartisanship in Congress. But Lexingtonians and others in the Sixth District have good reason to question his earnestness.

He proved it once again when he spoke to a reporter after the town hall.

The majority of the audience shared concerns about how much power President Trump has.

The reporter asked: “Is that a question you get asked often of how much power is the president allotted?”

He replied: “No, I think that question was born of frustration at what Democrats see as a lack of balance between the branches of government. This president is winning and it is frustrating for some people on the other side.”

So Cline dismissed the genuine alarm of many people– not just Democrats– about Trump’s increasingly authoritarian style of governing: his willingness to defy and bypass Congress and ignore the courts whenever it suits him, his absurd assertion that Article 2 of the Constitution give him the right to do whatever he wants as president, his politically- and personally-motivated use of his powers of pardon and clemency, his proclamation that he is the law of the land.

Instead, Cline said, the only reason Democrats and others are upset is that Trump is winning and they are losing.

Congressman Cline: If you believe that, your willingness to shrug off Trump’s appalling abuse of power makes you and your fellow sycophants as dangerous to our Republic as he is.