Trump plans to order meat-processing plants to continue operating. Separately, Trump said he will sign an executive order today to shield meatpacking companies from legal liability over failing to protect workers from the coronavirus.https://t.co/jo1gLXgdy2— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 28, 2020
So, first, can Trump absolve meatpacking plants of liability under the DPA? I honestly don't know. Nobody else does either:
Worker safety experts say such an order would prevent local health officials from ordering meat companies to use their the most effective weapon available to protect their employees from the coronavirus — closures. They also fear that it would also undercut newly issued federal health guidelines designed to put space between plant workers. Trump has not publicly explained which provisions within the act he will rely on to compel plants to remain open or grant companies protection from workplace safety requirements.
Meat packing plant employees are unimpressed:
"All I know is, this is crazy to me, because I can't see all these people going back into work," said Donald, who works at Tyson's Waterloo, Iowa, facility. "I don't think people are going to go back in there."
Donald asked to be referred to by his first name only. He is currently recovering after testing positive for the virus.
"I'm still trying to figure out: What is he going to do, force them to stay open? Force people to go to work?" he asked.
And they shouldn't be:
Trump on Tuesday told reporters that “there’s plenty of supply”, but that supply chains had hit what he called a “roadblock”. The order is meant to lift the block in shielding companies from liability from a previous lack of safety measures or protective equipment.
Sure, you may lose a hand, but people gotta get their Big Macs! This is a crisis! That calls for a return to a 19th century work environment! But what has Trump called for so far? Nothing:
“This is more symbolism than substance,” said Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. “He’s opening the door for the executive branch to take some far more specific actions vis-à-vis the meat plants, but the order itself doesn’t do anything.”From the same people who brought you "Anyone Who Needs A Test Can Get One" and "An Economy Rockin' by July!"
While the order does not explicitly mandate that plants stay open, it could allow the Department of Agriculture to potentially force meat companies to fulfill orders from retailers, effectively keeping them in some capacity.
Lobbyists for the meat industry said the executive order, which invoked the Defense Production Act, was significant because it created federal guidelines for the steps plants needed to take to prevent the virus from spreading. Until now, meat plants have been forced to close based on a patchwork of regulations from local and state health departments. The meat industry has warned that closures could threaten the U.S. supply of beef, pork and other products.
“It’s now a partnership between federal agencies and state and local officials to ensure everything is done to keep workers safe,” said Julie Anna Potts, the chief executive of the North American Meat Institute, a trade group for beef, pork and turkey packers and producers.
Still, the order does not address some critical questions such as whether the plants should test all their workers for the virus before reopening. Some plants have reopened without widespread testing.
What could go wrong?