In 2020 six employees died at Colorado’s JBS plant. Slaughterhouse workers still fear for their lives.
In Greeley, Colorado, slaughterhouse workers at the world’s largest meat processing company have a new union contract that grants them substantial raises. They also have new state legislation on their side that mandates paid sick leave. Still, none of this protects these mostly immigrant workers from getting sick with Covid while working the lines at JBS, the Brazilian conglomerate that owns their plant. Workers told The New York Times that safety issues remain persistent and that changes at the plant intended to offer protection “have been aimed at managing perceptions.” There is still not enough distance between workers on the assembly line, they say, as well as inadequate stock of hand sanitizer and pressure to come to work even when they are ill. “It gets thrown in our faces if we’re sick,” 23-year-old slaughterhouse worker Mariel Pastrana told the Times. During an outbreak in 2020, 291 workers tested positive and six employees at the plant died—including a worker named Tin Aye. The 60-year-old, who endured an exodus from her homeland in Myanmar while pregnant with her only child and lived in a refugee camp for 15 years, could not survive her job working at JBS. For JBS’ negligence leading to the deaths of Aye and others at the Greeley plant, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined JBS just $15,615. —Tina Vasquez