Lincoln Journal Star: Vargas seeks legislative action to protect meatpacking workers

Posted by Tony Vargas · July 28, 2020

Ljs 072820

Advocates will attempt a long-shot effort to seek legislative action to protect workers in Nebraska meat-processing plants before senators go home in two weeks.

Supporters of the largely Latino, refugee and immigrant workforce gathered under a hot noon-day sun in front of the north steps of the Capitol on Tuesday to seek support for the workers who have been one of the two major targets of COVID-19 in Nebraska along with aging residents of long-term care facilities.

Worker advocates said the virus has infected 4,700 meatpacking workers in Nebraska so far and that 19 of them have died.

Workers labor shoulder-to-shoulder on fast-moving production lines and in some plants that have aging or faulty ventilation systems, a lineup of speakers said.

One worker said there is "no social distancing" where she works and the "cheap masks" that the company provides to workers disintegrate quickly as they get wet.

Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha, whose father died in New York City after a long battle with the virus, said he will ask his colleagues to suspend the Legislature's rules, allow introduction of a bill at this late date and schedule a public hearing on the issue before they go home Aug. 13.

"Basic human decency is to protect workers now," Vargas said.

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Photo credit: Gwyneth Roberts, Journal Star

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