In April processing plants announced having outbreaks in their facilities. Local health departments conducted outbreak investigations. Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel did have confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) among its employees, however, the total number of cases has not be released.
Bladen County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Terri Duncan explained Smithfield officials confirmed they are taking each employees’ temperature before they enter the facility for work as well as following all the guidelines the CDC suggests.
Although the COVID-19 outbreaks have caused fear and alarm, one employee explains the extra precautions Smithfield is taking to protect their employees.
Rob Allen said, “OK, enough is enough. Smithfield is doing everything it can to protect it’s workers. I work at the plant in Tar Heel, NC so I am speaking from first hand knowledge.”
Smithfield has provided the necessary PPE for its employees, according to Allen. In addition to providing the necessary PPE, department start and end times have been staggered in such a way that two departments barely come into contact with each other.
Allen continued, “Also, to say that Smithfield is just lining it’s pockets is a complete fabrication. If anything, Smithfield is probably losing money hand over fist. It has invested thousands of dollars into creating barriers where it can in the line and in the cafeteria and locker areas. Furthermore, we are only working half shifts but still being paid for a full shift. Not to mention that it is allowing those that the CDC classifies as high risk to take two weeks paid leave.”
Shutting down is not an option. President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order in April compelling meat processors to remain open to head off food shortages.
Allen said, “The plant I work at is the single largest pork processing facility in the world. Imagine the impact on the food supply if we would shut down. I don’t think people are realizing just where that food in the grocery store comes from. Yes, meat cases are low on product. That’s because we have been forced to slow production. Imagine if we stopped.”
In closing Allen stated, “It’s time to stop criticizing an entire industry. We are not money grubbing people. We are an industry that feels the enormous weight put on our shoulders during this unprecedented crisis. So instead of protesting us, cheer us. Instead of yelling at us, thank us. We know that conditions are not ideal and that we are at risk. We do this gladly … for you.”
Smithfield Foods is one of the largest employers in Bladen County. When riding by the Tar Heel Facility on full display are banners that encourage motorists to Honk to #ThankAFoodWorker.
According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19. More information on Smithfield’s COVID-19 response can be found here.Share: