After 10 Workers Get COVID-19, 1,000 Meatpackers Walk Off the Job in Colorado

Meatpacking workers leaving work at JBS plants in Greeley, Colorado (Eric Bellamy/ Greeley Tribune

On Monday, JBS announced that ten workers at its Greeley, Colorado plant tested positive for COVID-19. 

In response to this, on Tuesday, nearly 1,000 meatpacking workers, members of UFCW Local 7, walked off the job at JBS’s mega 4,000 person processing plant in Greely, Colorado, where workers speak more than 27 languages.  

Despite language barriers, the workers at the plant say that they have been denied sick pay to self-quarantine when working at the plant. 

“We’ve been demanding from the beginning that the workers should be entitled to sick pay. Right now, they don’t qualify for paid sick time. What the company did agree to, though we’re not done, is if somebody tests positive, (the company) would pay them while they’re quarantined,” UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cardova told the Greely Tribune.

“If somebody advised the company they had symptoms, (the company) was asking them to go to the doctor. We’re demanding they pay them for that time off,” said Cardova. 

The union is also demanding that workers be given personal protective safety gear due to the closed quarters in which most employees are cramped. 

“It’s a pretty big facility, but if you’ve never been in the plant, it’s amazing how that process works. People work pretty much elbow to elbow. There’s no 6-feet distancing there,” says UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cardova

The union is also demanding that Democratic Governor Jared Polis declare that meat processing workers in Colorado are “essential employees.” 

Last week, Corado joined Minnesota and Vermont in declaring that grocery store workers were “essential employees.” By being labeled “essential employees,” all grocery store employees are entitled to free child care and at least four days of paid sick leave. 

Now, workers in Colorado are hoping that Polis also declare other workers as essential employees. 

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing over 1,800 stories from 46 states, Elk was the only American reporter in the room with Lula on the morning of the election & traveled with him to the Oval Office. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]

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