Worker members of Western North Carolina Workers’ Center gathered at Bicentennial Plaza in Raleigh, NC on November 6th to commemorate the lives of farmworkers and poultry and meat processing workers who have died from COVID-19. The event featured worker members of Western North Carolina Workers’ Center who spoke about their experiences on the job and about the health and safety risks they have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers also called on the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) to accept a recent rule-making petition that would protect workers during the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis. The rule-making petition calls on NCDOL to put an end to dangerous conditions, saying that the current voluntary guidance for workplaces is insufficient in protecting workers who are on the frontlines of the pandemic.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 71,000 farm, food-processing, and meatpacking workers have fallen ill with COVID-19 – more than 5,000 in North Carolina alone.
“Too many workers in North Carolina’s food system have died from COVID-19. These deaths could have been prevented if the NCDOL would have done more to hold companies accountable for their lack of protection of workers against exposure to COVID-19. The NCDOL has an opportunity to adapt an emergency rule that will ensure workers receive the protections they deserve,” said Hunter Ogletree, co-director with the Western NC Workers’ Center.