Apr 20, 2020
The Smithfield Foods pork-processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota became the latest Coronavirus hotspot. News of employees testing positive only came to light after the daughter of two Smithfield workers informed the media. The plant remained open until April 15, employees working a foot apart. At least 644 Smithfield workers have now tested positive.
Many workers at Smithfield are immigrants and refugees from Africa and Latin America. They average $14 to $16 an hour, so most have to work to pay their bills. Smithfield said its plants were “essential” to force workers to keep coming to work. The plant closure and others in the meat-packing industry certainly could result in future meat shortages.
Yet Smithfield and other companies did little to prevent workers from becoming infected and kept quiet about workers’ exposure. What happened to Smithfield workers is not limited to the meatpacking industry, yet very little information has been made public about occupational exposure as a major cause of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In typical capitalist fashion, profits come before people.