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Three workers at a meatpacking plant in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, on Thursday filed a suit in federal court against the U.S. Department of Labor to compel the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect workers who feel their lives are in danger by unsafe practices during the pandemic.
The Maid-Rite Specialty Foods workers allege “imminent dangers posed by a workplace that has failed to take the most basic precautions to protect against the spread of COVID-19,” along with a list of grievances described in the 49-page complaint Jane Does I, II, III and Friends of Farmworkers Inc., justice at work in its capacity as employee representative v. Eugene Scalia, in his official capacity as United States Secretary of Labor; Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, filed in the United States District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania, in Harrisburg.
The complaint states that Maid-Rite, where a worker had filed an administrative complaint with OSHA in April, “has violated and is continuing to violate its duty to provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious harm to its workers.” The three plaintiffs also filed an administrative complaint in May, unaware of the earlier filing, according to the suit.
The suit outlines the alleged unsafe protocols and include “failing to provide cloth face coverings, configuring the production line in such a way that workers cannot social distance, failing to arrange for social distancing in other areas of the plant, failing to provide adequate handwashing opportunities, creating incentives for workers to attend work sick, failing to inform workers of potential exposures to COVID-19, and rotating-in workers from other facilities in a way that increases the risk of spreading the virus.”
Officials at Maid-Rite could not be reached for comment. An OSHA spokeswoman said the agency is not commenting.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order directing meat and poultry processors to continue operations to the maximum extent possible to prevent disruption to the country’s food supply chain. Although temporary guidance regarding the protection of workers has been issued, union advocates and workers rights groups are seeking more protection.