Union calls for two-week shutdown of Patrick Cudahy plant for cleaning, sanitation due to COVID-19

NOW: Union calls for two-week shutdown of Patrick Cudahy plant for cleaning, sanitation due to COVID-19

CUDAHY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Smithfield Foods announced the closure of several of its locations this week, including their Patrick Cudahy plant in Cudahy.

The closure will last two weeks, but their location in South Dakota has closed indefinitely after it became the nation’s top hotspot for COVID-19 cases and local governmental officials pushed for it to shut down.

The local union here called for a two-week shutdown of the Smithfield plant in Cudahy for cleaning and sanitation after a number of employees tested positive for the virus.

“I’m surprised that it actually took them this long to actually take action,” said Maria Sanchez, the wife of a Patrick Cudahy worker.

Her husband tested positive for COVID-19 this past weekend, but symptoms started showing up two weeks ago after he had contact with a coworker he worked right next to, and he’s been in isolation ever since.

The company has said they would pay employees during the hiatus, but they remain skeptical.

“They are aware that he’s positive,” said Sanchez. “But nothing has been said about his payment, his job security, or his pay status either.”

Workers are represented by UFCW Union 1473, and they’re asking Smithfield to not only deep clean and sanitize the facilities, but also for better equipment to protect employees such as face masks, and Plexiglas dividers where social distancing isn’t possible.

As of Wednesday, more than 500 employees at their Sioux Falls location have tested positive for coronavirus and until local officials say it’s okay, will remain closed until further notice.

But officials here say they’re not so sure they’ll want to do the same.

“I do think that if the company is doing the right thing and saying they’re going to do, and they can be sure that there’s not going to be another spread, I don’t see why we would push them to stay closed because it’s just more people that are out of work,” said representative Christine Sinicki from District 20.

CBS 58 requested to speak to the union that is also asking for a $2 dollar an hour premium pay for employees who stay on during the closure, but we have yet to hear which departments will be staying open.

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