JBS USA, one of the major companies in the industry, is offering $ 100 vaccination incentives to workers and recently hosted a mass vaccination event at one of its plants. But the union that United Food and Commercial Workers Local 663 played an important role in overcoming worker reluctance.
“T.Members were very skeptical for many different reasons, ”said Matt Utecht. The local president described a month-long educational process to the Times to get the vast majority of the workforce at the plant to vaccinate.
Meat packers, of course, aren’t the only low-paid ground workers whose safety has been treated as an afterthought over the past year. Other such workers may also be vaccinated in many states, but some states have excluded them from vaccination schedules. Grocer, restaurant and transportation workers in Massachusetts and Louisiana were approved Monday along with several other categories of workers.
In Oregon, however, grocery and restaurant workers may not be vaccinated until April 19. Governor Kate Brown said the decision to give priority to those 45 and over with comorbidities was made in the name of equity. Food workers in Michigan can be vaccinated two weeks earlier than in Oregon – but only because everyone over the age of 16 will be admitted on April 5. However, food and restaurant workers in Wayne County are already vaccinated, and food and farm workers are eligible across the state. Maine is currently running an age-only vaccination. Some key workers are eligible because they are 50 years of age or older – the 23 March threshold – but are not given special access.
“We were important in the beginning, but now that the vaccines are being dispensed we are no longer important,” Lisa Wright, a Michigan Kroger employee, told the Lansing State Journal.
In other words, like so many other pandemic policies, it is up to each state to decide the priority given to essential workers, and the responses vary enormously. Meanwhile, grocery and grocery service providers, among others, are popping up every day to get a payment that is often too low to pay the bills.