COVID-19 cases explode at 2 meatpacking firms Voces challenged a week ago

There are now at least 147 coronavirus cases at JBS Packerland meatpacker in Green Bay, the Green Bay Press Gazette and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday afternoon.

That’s one of the companies Voces complained about to the Governor, legislative leaders, and OSHA about a week ago.

The other meatpacking company, American Foods, has at least 39 cases. Voces complained about that company, also.

For copies of all the correspondence among Voces, OSHA, the Governor, JBS and American, please click the tab at the top labeled “COVID-19 IN THE WORKPLACE.”

Raquel, a worker at American Foods who participated in a press conference by Voces on Monday, was featured in the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

That paper ran a 3-minute video segment of Raquel’s testimony.

Also, the paper cited Voces’ role in calling attention to the issue. Referring both Raquel and another Green Bay woman, Dora, the paper wrote:

“My 5-year-old wants me to hug him, and I can’t because I don’t want him to get infected like we are,” Raquel said, urging people to stay home from work if they’re ill. 

The Press-Gazette continued: “The two women were among those who spoke at the news conference held by Voces de la Frontera. The statewide advocacy group and union representatives are pushing for stronger protections for essential workers at risk of contracting the virus and bringing it home to their families. 

“Among their demands: masks, temperature checks and paid sick days for workers who test positive. Voces also contacted company and state officials, along with Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich, and filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on behalf of workers at JBS and American Foods, said Executive Director Christine Neumann-Ortiz.”

“We have to ensure that first and foremost, essential workers and their families who are right now on the front lines are safe, that they’re treated fairly if they’re sick or they need to self-quarantine, if they or someone at their work site catches this virus,” she said.

The Journal Sentinel also showed Raquel’s video and wrote:

“The worker rights group Voces de la Frontera filed complaints about JBS and American Foods to OSHA on April 13, according to records obtained by the Press-Gazette. Voces demanded that both companies provide masks, ensure employees can practice social distancing and inform workers about positive cases.

“The organization also asked JBS and American Foods to provide workers with paid sick leave. 

“At the time of Voces’ letter, JBS had one confirmed case, “rumors of a second” and pending test results, the letter states. Five employees at American Foods were also reportedly sick as of April 13 — four at the main plant and one at the Acme Street facility.

“OSHA told JBS and American Foods on April 16 that they have until Thursday to investigate the allegations and report back with their findings, documents show. Robert Bonack, director of OSHA’s Appleton-area office, said the federal agency would inspect the plants only if the companies missed their deadline.

“We have not determined whether the hazards, as alleged, exist at your workplace, and we do not intend to conduct an inspection at this time,” Bonack wrote,” the Journal Sentinel wrote.