Over 44,000 Meatpackers Tested Positive for COVID – OSHA Hasn’t Issued COVID Fine for More than $30,000 – Philly Firefighters Protest Trump Endorsement

Meatpacking workers have tested positive for COVID at record rates. (Getty Images)

Folks, 

Greetings from the Burgh, where the air is healthy enough to breathe for once. 

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Over 44,000 Meatpackers Tested Positive for COVID as Workers Struggle to Get Compensated

According to a tracker maintained by the Food & Environment Reporting Network, more than 44,000 meatpackers have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 200 have died from it. 

Now, a new exposé by the New York Times shows how many meatpacking families have struggled to get compensated for their loved one’s death on the job: 

Workers’ compensation has traditionally been used to address on-the-job injuries — not fatalities tied to a pandemic that has disrupted millions of lives and killed more than 200,000 people in the United States. Tracing the exact origins of individual infections can be difficult, which appears to have given JBS an avenue to deny compensation claims on the grounds that the illnesses were not necessarily work related.

“It is my understanding that JBS was stating that the workers didn’t contract Covid at the plant,” said Kim Cordova, the president of the local chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers, a union that represents many JBS employees.

“I think that it’s just further proof that these companies put profit over people, and that they have treated these poor essential workers as disposable or sacrificial human beings for the sake of production or profit,” she added.

For more, go to the New York Times. 

Experts Dispute Amazon Study Claiming Only 19,000 Workers Got COVID

Last week, Payday covered a report released by Amazon claiming that 19,000 of its workers got COVID. The company claimed its COVID rate was dramatically lower than the overall population. 

Experts are now saying those numbers appear to be incomplete and insufficient for studying the company’s response to its sick workers. Bloomberg has the story: 

Three experts interviewed by Bloomberg said the data was unhelpful because it failed to reveal whether the infection rate was improving or growing worse. One said Amazon’s comparison of its workforce to the general population is fundamentally flawed and reveals a lack of understanding of epidemiology. So while the announcement may have helped assuage some critics who say Amazon hasn’t done enough to protect workers toiling through a pandemic, it was essentially useless for employees trying to assess whether it’s safe to show up for work, they said.

“It looks like someone just put a bunch of numbers together, and what we can determine from those numbers, I just don’t know,” said Preeti Malani, an infectious disease expert, physician and chief health officer at the University of Michigan. “I have no idea what to make of them. At best, it’s incomplete.”

For more, go to Bloomberg. 

Harvard Study: OSHA Complaints Were Often Followed By Workers’ Death 

A new study released by Harvard Medical School this Monday has found a strong correlation between OSHA complaints about COVID-19 exposure and workplace deaths from COVID-19 that occurred nearly 17 days after a complaint was made. 

The study presents the first empirical evidence that workplace COVID-19 deaths may have been preventable if OSHA had acted earlier.  

For more, read the full study here. 

OSHA Hasn’t Issued a Fine Worth More Than $30,000 Since Pandemic Began

Despite mass death from COVID-19 exposure in the workplace, OSHA has yet to issue a fine worth more than $30,000, according to a new report by Politico. 

“Every enforcement action sends a message,” Dr. David Michaels, the head of OSHA under the Obama administration, told Politico. “These tiny fines are OSHA sending a message to meat factories across the country that they don’t have to worry anymore… they can operate as they please no matter how many workers are sick, injured or killed.”

For more, go to Politico. 

Philly Firefighters Protest Their Union’s Endorsement of Trump

Last year, the Firefighters union endorsed Joe Biden for president. However, their Philadelphia local endorsed Trump through a process that many members in the union called undemocratic. 

“The survey went out, the survey never said endorsement. It was more asking who are you voting for, a number of people did not fill out the survey,” said Lisa Forrest, president of Club Valiants, a fraternal society for minority firefighters told KYW. 

Now, the union is reconsidering their plans to endorse after protests from their membership. 

For more on the story check out my high school friend Justin Udo’s report at KYW. 

That’s all for today, folks. Keep sending tips, story ideas, and links for articles in the newsletter to melk@paydayreport.com 

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is a yinzer labor reporter who covered the drug war in Brasil and spent years covering union organizing in the South for The Guardian. In 2016, he used his $70,000 NLRB settlement from being fired in the union drive at Politico to start the crowd-funded Payday Report. The son of United Electrical Workers (UE) Director of Organization Gene Elk, he lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh. Email: Melk@PaydayReport.com

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