Press Release Coronavirus Government Immigrants US Workers

New Data Reveals Scope of Meatpacking Industry Workers Impacted by Continued Plant Operations


April 29, 2020

Contact: Karen Conner, 202-281-4159Mail_Outline

Washington, DC ― A presidential executive order demanding meat processing companies remain open, even as they become a hotspot of coronavirus deaths, directly impacts 194,000 frontline meatpacking workers in the Animal Slaughtering and Processing Industry. 

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) data analysis of meatpacking industry workers released today, a disproportionate number of these workers are people of color, immigrants, and people in relatively low-income families. Almost one-half (44.4 percent) of meatpacking workers are Hispanic, and one-quarter (25.2 percent) are Black. These are just some of the insights provided in the analysis by CEPR’s Shawn Fremstad, Hye Jin Rho, and Hayley Brown.

Immigrants are particularly overrepresented in frontline meatpacking occupations. About 17 percent of workers in the US workforce today are immigrants. But more than one-half (51.5 percent) of frontline meatpacking workers are immigrants.

Even before the pandemic, meatpackers did hazardous work daily, with injury and illness rates about two times higher than workers on average. In addition to yesterday’s executive order, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has waived federal regulations on maximum line speed in at least 15 poultry plants this month.

“Instead of increasing protections for these workers during the pandemic, the current administration has increased the risks they face,” said Fremstad. 

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