Meatpacking companies aren’t worried about COVID-19 lawsuits—Team Trump has their back

The Smithfield lawyer’s confidence that the Trump administration would be on the company’s side has since been backed up by other reports, like a Senate Republican staffer saying that protecting companies from liability was in Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia’s “bailiwick,” and Deputy Labor Secretary Pat Pizzella playing coy. “All I can say is this issue is one that [Scalia] is quite familiar with given his background, so it’s not unusual that people are seeking his input, but I don’t want to go into any details,” Pizzella said. In translation, Scalia is totally working with companies to protect them from workers’ efforts to get protection from the courts.

”The Department of Labor has a duty to the workers who are putting their health and safety at risk every day,” Public Citizen’s Adam Pulver told HuffPost. “To the extent that the Department of Labor is collaborating with meatpacking plants, it should be open and transparent about all of those conversations.” Ha ha ha. Sigh.

Smithfield isn’t just hearing it in court. A grieving granddaughter left a comment on the company’s Instagram earlier in May, detailing how her grandfather was infected by his son and daughter-in-law who work at a Smithfield plant. They were asymptomatic, but 80-year-old Tam Mai died from the infection they carried.

My grandfather lost his battle last night after fighting for his life for a week. I want you to know he died in the hospital alone, isolated and scared,” Vy Mai wrote. Her message to Smithfield went on: “I want to know what excuse you have for not shutting down a plant with 50+ confirmed cases. And most importantly, I want you to see him as a person who has been affected by this and not just another statistic of your carelessness.” Tam Mai’s wife, son, and daughter-in-law couldn’t be at his viewing and cremation because they were all still infected.

The Trump administration isn’t the only government actor protecting meatpacking companies: Mai lived in Nebraska, where Gov. Pete Ricketts has cited privacy in blocking disclosure of how many workers at each meatpacking plant have tested positive. 

No wonder COVID-19 rates in counties with meatpacking plants are sky-high.