New bill seeks to bring sweeping reforms to the U.S. meatpacking industry

A new bill introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California) this week could dramatically improve work conditions and whistleblower protections for meatpacking workers, while also targeting monopolistic practices in the industry, reports Mother Jones. ​The “Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act” would establish stricter ergonomic standards for workers and ensure that employees have prompt and proper access to toilets, among other provisions. It would also require companies to publicly report the number of employees who get sick during the Covid-19 pandemic or future viral outbreaks. The pandemic’s devastating impact on meatpacking workers is still coming into focus; an October congressional investigation found that meatpackers “prioritized profits” over workers during the pandemic. According to the report, at least 59,000 workers in plants run by the five biggest meatpacking firms in the U.S. tested positive for Covid-19 during the first year of the pandemic, and 269 died—numbers far higher than previously estimated. —Patricia I. Escárcega