California: UFCW Local 770 wants Farmer John Vernon Plant closed now
Los Angeles, CA – As more than 130 workers at the Farmer John plant in Vernon have contracted the coronavirus, May 25, the union representing 1300 plant employees is calling for an immediate closure to ensure workers are safe and to keep all workers on the payroll with their full pay and benefits.
Workers at Farmer John, which is owned by Smithfield, have pressed the company for increased safety measures, workplace protections and information about infections at the plant. Information has been incomplete and safety measures insufficient. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is currently investigating the plant.
“Working conditions inside the plant are similar to what we are seeing nationwide in Smithfield plants,” said John Grant, president of UFCW Local 770. “Workers are still too close together on the line, in the breakroom, the bathrooms and other such hubs. Smithfield has not provided full information about what is really going on inside the Vernon plant. Without information we cannot make an informed decision about workers’ health and safety. Therefore, we are calling for Smithfield to continue paying workers while they close the plant for a complete and thorough investigation and cleaning and to ensure the company is complying with Cal/OSHA and Department of Public Health guidance.”
“We need to feel safe on the job and we do not,” said Rina Chavarria, who works at the Farmer John plant. “We work hard every day. Smithfield has not taken steps to make sure workers are protected and now so many of us are getting sick. We can’t go to the plant under these conditions. We are paid too little not to work so we call on Smithfield to do the right thing and close the plant while we keep our pay and benefits.”