Rep. Davis Joins Letter on Executive Order Classifying Meat Processing Plants as Critical Infrastructure

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May 6, 2020
Statements

The letter is below and HERE

 

May 1, 2020

 

The Honorable Sonny Perdue                                     The Honorable EugeneScalia

Secretary                                                                     Secretary

U.S. DepartmentofAgriculture                                  U.S. Department ofLabor

1400 IndependenceAve. SW                                     200 Constitution Ave.NW

Washington,D.C.20250                                            Washington, D.C.20210

 

The Honorable Alex M. Azar, II Secretary

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 200 Independence Ave. SW

Washington, D.C. 20201

 

Dear Secretary Perdue, Secretary Scalia, and Secretary Azar:

We write to follow up on the Executive Order signed by President Trump on April 28, 2020, invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA) to classify meat processing plants as critical infrastructure to keep them in operation during the coronavirus national emergency.1

Prior to issuance of the Executive Order, media reports indicated the government would provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and guidance for employees and employers on worker safety, and that the order would shield meat processing companies from legal liability against worker claims of inadequate protection.2 However, neither the Executive Order nor the subsequent press release issued by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) contain information about coordination between federal agencies to provide PPE or plans to increase coronavirus testing for plant employees and the surrounding communities.3

Over 6,500 employees at meat processing plants have either tested positive or gone into self- quarantine, and 20 workers have died since the start of the pandemic, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.4 Continued operations at these plants and reopening currently closed facilities would require coordination between federal agencies, states, local communities, plant owners and workers, otherwise more workers will be at risk. To better understand federal efforts in this area, we request responses to the following by May 6, 2020:

  1. What guidance has been shared with meat processing plants regarding the steps they need to undertake to ensure worker health and safety before reopening or the steps they must undertake immediately to ensure worker health and safety if they are currentlyoperating?
  2. How is the federal government coordinating with meat companies, employees, state and local health departments, and local communities? How will each of these stakeholders be involved during the time the DPA isinvoked?
  3. What is the plan and timeline for distribution of PPE for all plant employees and will these supplies be sourced from the states’ supply or the federal stockpile? Will there be continued deliveries of PPE while the DPA is invoked for these processing plants to ensure all employees are adequately protected?
  4. As part of the DPA and any forthcoming guidance, will companies be required toretrofit plants and/or modify shifts and other practices in order to ensure compliance with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommended socialdistancing?
  5. What enforcement mechanisms will be put in place to ensure OSHA and CDC guidance is adhered to at individual plants? Will teams from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service or OSHA regularly inspect these plants during theDPA?
  6. Will there be a hotline or other mechanism for employees to reportviolations?
  7. Will increased testing be provided at these plants for symptomatic and asymptomatic employees, including contact tracing? Is there sufficient testing capacity to regularly test all employees, whether or not they are symptomatic? What consultation have your agencies completed with the CDC and state and local health departments regarding testing capabilities in thesestates?
  8. How will your agencies coordinate with the CDC to develop guidance regarding employees most at risk of developing COVID-19 complications? What is the timeline for release of that guidance? If such guidance has been developed, what actions doesit recommend or require plants to undertake to protect theseemployees?

Maintaining our food supply chain is critical to the food security of all Americans, as well as our farmers and producers. however, it cannot be at the expense of worker health and safety,

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important issue. We look forward to receiving your response.

1 https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-delegating-authority-dpa-respect-food-supply-chain-resources-national-emergency-caused-outbreak-covid-19/

2 https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/28/trump-to-order-meat-plants-to-stay-open-215555

3 https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2020/04/28/usda-implement-president-trumps-executive-order-meat-and-poultry

4 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-28/trump-says-he-s-issuing-order-for-tyson-s-unique-liability