JBS USA, one of the big companies in the industry, offers workers $ 100 incentives to get vaccinated and recently held a mass vaccination event at one of its factories. But the workers’ union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 663 played a major role in overcoming workers’ reluctance.
“Tthere was a lot of skepticism among the members, for many different reasons, ”said Matt Utecht, the local president, describing to the Times a multi-month education process for the vast majority of factory workers to sign up for the vaccine.
Meat packers aren’t the only low-paid essential workers whose safety has been treated as an afterthought over the past year, of course. Others of these workers also become eligible for vaccination in many states, although in some they are excluded from vaccination plans. Grocery store, restaurant and transportation workers Massachusetts and Louisiana became eligible on Monday, along with several other categories of workers.
In Oregon, on the other hand, employees at grocery stores and restaurants may not be eligible for vaccination until April 19, with housekeeper Kate Brown saying the decision to prioritize people aged 45 and over with co-morbidities has was taken in the name of fairness. Michigan workers in the grocery store will be eligible for vaccination two weeks earlier than those in Oregon, but only because April 5 is the day. everybody over 16 will become eligible. Grocery store and food service workers Wayne County, however, are already vaccinated, and catering and agricultural workers are eligible statewide. Maine does a purely age-based vaccination at this point, so while some essential workers qualify because they’re 50 or older – the cutoff as of March 23 – they don’t have special access.
“We started out as important, but now that the vaccines are distributed we are no longer important,” said Lisa Wright, a Michigan Kroger employee. Lansing State Journal. “It’s like we’re being pushed aside.”
In other words, as with so many other pandemic policies, it is up to each state to decide which priority to give essential workers, and responses have varied wildly. Meanwhile, grocery store and food service workers, among many others, show up every day for wages that are often too low to pay the bills.