Slider
Slider

|

Slider

OPINION | Senators get a meaty education

Editorials & Columns
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

PRODUCING meat is tough going in a pandemic, especially when you’re getting slaughtered by politicians.

Last month Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker denounced America’s four largest meat processors for allegedly putting profits over workers, and Smithfield Foods CEO Kenneth Sullivan’s unapologetic response deserves attention.

 

Meat-processing plants became virus hot spots this spring, and factory closures caused shortages of some meat products at grocery stores and led to the culling of hogs, chicken and cattle. But as Mr. Sullivan notes in a letter to the Senators co-signed by more than 3,500 employees, “processing plants were no more designed to operate in a pandemic than hospitals were designed to produce pork.”

 

Smithfield has adjusted its production lines and improved worker protections against the virus at considerable cost. The company has bought millions of masks and face shields to equip each employee, as well as tens of thousands of sanitizer stations. It has installed plexiglass on production floors and break rooms and implemented thermal temperature checks for employees entering plants.

 

“An oft-repeated demand is that the industry ‘slow line speeds for more social distancing,’” Mr. Sullivan writes. But “slowing line speeds by 50 percent, for example, means euthanizing half of our nation’s livestock, the collapse of farm prices (law of supply and demand), burying food in the ground, food insecurity and higher food prices for everyone including, most importantly, those that can least afford it.” Smithfield says it has also hired private health-care providers for every processing facility to provide free on-demand testing. Workers over age 60 or with underlying conditions have been offered paid leave. In addition, 11,000 who were quarantined but did not test positive were guaranteed pay. Workers have also received hazard pay averaging $4 per hour.

 

“Do these sound like the actions of a company that does not care about employee health and safety or is putting profits ahead of its team members?” Mr. Sullivan writes. “We have no desire to stand alone in the breach between the American people and food shortages, particularly with Monday morning quarterbacks everywhere.”

 

Running a business isn’t as easy as being a senator, especially in a pandemic. Nearly all corporate leaders are doing their best to protect workers while continuing to serve customers, and it’s refreshing to see a CEO aggressively rebut political attacks that suggest otherwise.

previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow
Slider

Read more articles

Visit our Facebook Page

previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow
Slider