LULAC National President Meets With UFCW And JBS Meatpacking Company On Fact Finding Mission
Leader of Nation’s Oldest & Largest Latino Civil Rights Organization Holds Talks With Labor and CEO, Then Visits Plant in Greeley, Colorado
Washington, DC – Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President held face-to-face talks with Andre Nogueira, JBS USA Food Company Chief Executive at the company’s world headquarters in Greeley, Colorado. Wednesday evening, he first met with Kim Cordova, President of UFCW Local 7 whose union represents workers at the JBS facility in Greeley. On Thursday, Garcia conducted a firsthand, on-site tour of the facility to observe for himself conditions for the more than 3,000 workers at the plant, the majority of whom are Latino.
“Our discussions with Mr. Nogueira and his executive staff were frank and honest, focusing on making sure that JBS employees are working in the safest conditions possible while facing a continuing invisible enemy, the coronavirus and I am encouraged by what I have seen and heard,” said Garcia. “Several weeks ago, LULAC presented JBS with a very specific list of demands in changes that workers told us they needed including being provided more personal protection equipment (PPE), installing partitions in the production areas and slowing down the line to reduce the risks within an industry hard hit by COVID-19. They also wanted more testing and assurances that employees who could not work because they were sick would not lose their pay or be fired. I can tell you from what I have seen today that JBS met each of the demands, so progress has been made in what is still very much an on-going process,” added Garcia.
LULAC requested and received unrestricted access to the JBS plant without preconditions while agreeing to follow the company’s safe distancing policies. Garcia questioned Nogueira about concerns voiced by both some employees and the union that the company was placing profit above workers’ safety. Nogueira informed LULAC that the company’s production quotas and key performance indicators are suspended at present with the sole focus being worker safety. Also, that design changes are being made in real time at all JBS sites to deal with an elusive virus as more is learned about its behavior.
“Our number one goal is the protection of the essential frontline food processing workers and protecting the quality of America’s food supply.” said Garcia. “JBS has agreed to give LULAC access to any of its plants across the United States for our inspection and the company committed to continue this work in progress with us because there is still more that can be done. LULAC is here to facilitate dialogue that will lead to solutions to protect Jose y Maria. My takeaway today from this inspection is how hard everyone is working here to feed our country. From the men and women on the line to supervisors and management; these are important essential workers and we want both the industry and labor to come together to fight this common enemy. It’s in everyone's interest to do this,” he concluded.
While much progress has been made, screening, testing, contact tracing, PPE, social distancing, and continued education must become the new normal in the food processing industry. Also, employees must continue to be guaranteed hazard pay, full paid sick leave, free and easy access to COVID-19 testing and treatment, and temporary protective status with pathway to citizens for all essential workers.
LULAC will continue to monitor and track the number of sick employees and COVID-19 related fatalities across the industry to ensure worker safety remains the top priority for these companies and we will hold them accountable to ensure they maintain and continue to enhance their efforts to combat this global pandemic.