Meatpacking workers often absent after Trump order to reopen
- Smithfield Foods Inc. in Sioux Falls, SD is still missing about a third of its employees because they are quarantined or afraid to return to work due to the coronavirus.
- According to Mark Lauritsen, vice president at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, 30%-50% of meatpacking workers were absent last week.
- Meatpacking workers lost confidence in management during the height of the coronavirus outbreaks in April and May. At the same time, Tyson and Smithfield say they have taken extensive safety measures, at great cost, to protect workers.
- Physical barriers have been erected, workers’ temperatures are taken, protective gear has been provided and break times have been staggered.
Lawsuit number 3: Grocers allege meatpackers are price fixing
- Central Grocers filed a class action lawsuit alleging the big four packers have violated the Sherman Act by conspiring to constrain beef supplies in the U.S.
- April 2020 USDA data revealed that 14% more beef is in “cold storage” than at this time a year ago, and more than any April in the past 5 years. Some believe that the meatpackers are withholding this beef from the market to push prices even higher.
- “If we had more players in this packing industry, they wouldn’t be attempting to put stuff in the freezer, they would figure out a price to sell it because they wouldn’t be able to jack the price of their other items up so much,” said Greg Gunthorp of Gunthorp Farms.
- Gunthorp isn’t sure if the meat market will ever return to “normal.” He would like to see more small and medium sized packers, however he fears that they will be undercut by the big four packers.
- There needs to be reform for new packing plants to stand a chance. The big packers have shown over and over again that they will run a new packing plant into the ground, stated Gunthorp.
Boxed beef continues to fall
- Choice boxed beef: $228.61 (-2.03)
- Select boxed beef: $214.35 (-4.92)