American pork producers and workers are battling over whether the ramifications from the coronavirus outbreak could lead to a potential "nightmare" scenario of "labor shortages" and the need for more guest-worker visas. The National Pork Producers Council put in a request to members of Congress this week for more visas through the country's guest-worker program, citing school closures that are preventing employees from going to work. The United Food & Commercial Workers Union, the largest U.S. private-sector union that represents 30,000 American pork workers, is not on board. The group called the visa request an exploitation of the current crisis.
"Allowing for additional migrant workers will "destroy American jobs and further weaken the economy," UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement. "The last thing Americans need is giant corporations watering down safeguards that protect American workers and our country's food safety," he said.
The pork producers council said, with no current evidence of such, that as schools close, laborers will leave farms and slaughter lines to take care of children, resulting in economic hardship in rural communities. Animal welfare could be harmed as well, according to the group. The pork industry is vulnerable to bottlenecks as farmers have boosted output and packers increased slaughter capacity in recent years. "Our farms and plants tell us they are paying over-prevailing wages and still can't find people," said Nick Giordano, a vice president at the pork producer council. "If UFCW can supply us with employees, that would be great, because our farms and plants are hiring now."
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Updated: Thu, Mar 19th 2020 @ 7:37am EDT