Activists protest dangerous working conditions at Cudahy business after workers test positive for COVID-19
CUDAHY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Activists from several groups gathered Friday morning outside of Smithfield Foods, where several workers have tested positive for COVID-19.
It’s the second time they’ve come together to shed light on the situation.
The local union says two employees at this location have tested positive for COVID-19, but instead of protecting them, local activists say workers are being exposed to dangerous conditions.
“Bacon and sausage are not essential. Human lives are,” said Rachel Golusinski, a volunteer with Direct Action Everywhere.
She spoke with us about their protest at Smithfield, the parent company of Patrick Cudahy.
Wearing full body protective gear, they’re objecting to the alleged unfair and unsafe practices.
“Workers are basically working side by side, they don’t have masks,” said Golusinski. “A lot of the workers are non-English speaking and they’re afraid, and they’re being exploited.”
“They have not come forward because the company is telling them if they take pictures, they talk about it, they can get fired,” said Walter Garron, the company’s Former Employee Union Representative.
Garron was the employee union representative for 11 years.
He says the workers are his friends, and came to him because they’re afraid of contracting the virus, or bringing it home to their families.
“They’ve been lying to their workers, hiding hand sanitizer from them, limiting them to one sheet of paper to clean their hands, telling them not to sanitize their helmets, things like that,” said Garron.
However in a statement, Smithfield says they “understand that these are worrisome times for their employees.” And that they “want them to know that their health and well-being are paramount."
The company says it’s following strict CDC guidelines, and offering 14-day COVID-19 related quarantines with pay.
But those we spoke with say it isn’t true, and are hoping the community steps up to support them.
“We need to take care of one another and be responsible,” said Garron. “And hold the company accountable to do the responsible thing, which is take care of their employees.”
Smithfield tells us they’re taking extensive measures at all their facilities by adding hand sanitizing stations, increasing social distancing, and using thermal scanning equipment.
Protesters say they’re going to continue fighting for employee rights.