Sending Office: Honorable Emanuel Cleaver
This week the President issued an Executive Order declaring meat processing facilities as critical infrastructure that must remain in operation or reopen. Outbreaks have occurred across the country in communities where these plants are located, affecting
over 6,500 workers and causing the deaths of 20. Please join us in writing to the Secretaries of Agriculture, Labor, and Health and Human Services to ensure proper plans are in place to protect workers in these facilities.
If you would like to sign on, please contact Christina.Mahoney@mail.house.gov in Rep. Cleaver’s office by
noon on Friday May 1, 2020.
Emanuel Cleaver, II Marcia L. Fudge
Member of Congress Member of Congress
April 30, 2020
U.S. Department of Agriculture U.S.
Department of Labor
1400 Independence Ave. SW 200
Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20250
Washington, D.C. 20210
The Honorable Alex M. Azar, II
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.
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. 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.
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.
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:
- 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 currently
- 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 is invoked?
- 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?
- As part of the DPA and any forthcoming guidance, will companies be required to retrofit 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 social distancing?
- 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 the DPA?
- Will there be a hotline or other mechanism for employees to report violations?
- 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 these states?
- 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 does it recommend
or require plants to undertake to protect these employees?
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.
Emanuel Cleaver, II
Member of Congress
Marcia L. Fudge
Member of Congress
e-Dear Colleague version 2.0