Workers at Tolleson meatpacking plant want 2-week closure of facility to avoid outbreak risk

Posted at 6:30 PM, Apr 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 00:37:57-04

TOLLESON, AZ — Donning face masks, more than a dozen workers walked across the street from the JBS Beef plant in Tolleson to share their concerns about working conditions inside the facility, while calling for a two-week closure of the plant to ensure it is properly cleaned and there is no risk of an outbreak.

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The JBS Beef plant remains open, as other meatpacking plants across the country have closed in recent weeks as workers fall ill with coronavirus. On Sunday, JBS announced the closure of a facility in Wisconsin.

Just last week, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said that across the country, 13 meat processing facilities have closed at some point in the past two months. According to the union, 10 meatpacking workers and three food processing workers have died.

Several employees of the JBS plant in Tolleson told ABC15 they fear catching coronavirus and want the company to shut down the facility for up to two weeks to ensure it is properly cleaned.

"The company is taking measures to clean and disinfect work areas, but they are not working," one employee said, via a translator. "Every day more people are being infected. We know this because those people have called us and told us they are sick. These are people who work closely with us."

The workers, who did not want to provide their names, said they hope conditions improve.

"We are very scared, enough to risk our livelihoods," the employee said. "We are trying to make some noise and get attention."

ABC15 tried to confirm if any positive cases have, indeed, been reported at the JBS plant in Tolleson. A corporate representative confirmed the following information, but did not specifically address ABC15's inquiry about the facility in Tolleson.

JBS USA has had team members test positive for COVID-19 in the U.S. We are offering support to those team members and their families, and we hope they all make a full and speedy recovery. Out of respect for the families, we are not releasing further information.

Meanwhile, a representative for the local worker's union, United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 99, told ABC15 there have been some employees with confirmed cases of COVID-19, but none that were tracked directly from contact within the plant.

A JBS representative previously told ABC15 they are staggering shifts, increasing cleaning, conducting temperature checks and requiring the use of masks to try and prevent the spread of the virus.

Meatpacking plant closures around the country have threatened the nation's food supply chain, as experts say it is getting tougher for meat to make it to the shelves at the grocery store.

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