The Trump administration has been conspiring with the meat industry to keep meatpacking plants open during the pandemic. Workers have paid a heavy price.
On April 28, Trump signed an executive order declaring that the operation of meatpacking plants was a national security priority and directed his administration to "take all appropriate action" to "ensure that meat and poultry processors continue operations." Trump also ordered meatpackers to "continue their operations to the fullest extent possible." At the time, 6,500 meatpacking workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and 20 had died.
Four months later, 42,567 meatpacking workers have tested positive for COVID-19, and 203 have died, according to data collected by the Food and Environmental Reporting Network.
Emails obtained by USA Today and ProPublica through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the substance of the executive order was drafted by the meatpacking industry itself and sent to the White House a week earlier. The draft executive order, produced by the North American Meat Institute, which represents the meatpacking industry, bears "striking similarities" to the one signed by the president a few days later.