HEAL Food Alliance Statement on Congressional Investigation into COVID and the Meatpacking Industry

May 19, 2022

A recent congressional investigation has revealed that Trump Administration officials collaborated with the meatpacking industry to downplay the threat of COVID-19 to plant workers and block public health measures which could have saved lives.

In response to the investigation’s findings, Navina Khanna, Executive Director of HEAL Food Alliance issued the following statement:

“This report corroborates what workers and organizers have been saying for years. We’re glad to see that the House is taking seriously these now proven allegations that the meatpacking industry and USDA colluded to prioritize corporate profits over the lives of working people and their families. Time and time again, the giant corporations that control the meatpacking industry take deliberate actions to line their own pockets, with zero regard for the lives of working people or their communities,” said Navina Khanna, Executive Director of the HEAL Food Alliance. 

This time it resulted in preventable illness for thousands and hundreds of lost lives.

At the height of a deadly pandemic, through coercion and lobbying, they refused to enact basic safety precautions, like providing PPE and provisions for workers to call in sick without penalty if they or a family member was exposed to COVID-19. The corporations not only deprived their employees of federal benefits and blocked public health regulations and state and local oversight to keep plants open, but also literally wrote a presidential executive order to shield themselves from any liability for workers’ deaths. They did this under the guise of a domestic food shortage. Meanwhile, they exported the majority of their product, and raked in record profits.

To date, the federal government has failed to protect the very workers that they deem essential. Congress, OSHA, the DOJ, the DOL, and the USDA must do more to prioritize the safety of this predominantly Black, Latinx, and Asian workforce, and enforce our basic civil rights laws. We are calling on the Biden administration and Congress to act. Our elected officials must hold corporations like Smithfield, Tyson, and JBS accountable for these workers’ deaths and the harm to public safety, and to prevent future instances of government and corporate corroboration. 

We hope this investigation conducted by the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis is a wake up call that leads Congress to heed the call to create comprehensible and enforceable workplace protections, starting with the passage of the Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act, which we so clearly and desperately need.”