Sept. 18, 2020
By Kathryn Walson
The meat industry’s trade association drafted an executive order resembling the one President Donald Trump signed in April mandating that meatpacking plants remain open, overriding local orders to close because of COVID-19 outbreaks, ProPublica reported after reviewing hundreds of emails.
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As of Sept. 14, more than 40,000 meatpacking workers had tested positive for the virus and nearly 200 had died from it, according to data compiled by ProPublica.
Julie Anna Potts, CEO of the North American Meat Institute, sent a draft executive order to the U.S. Department of Agriculture invoking the president’s powers under the Defense Production Act. Although the wording of Trump’s executive order differed from NAMI’s, its main directive was the same: to ensure meatpacking plants continue operating, according to the news outlet.
“Trade associations of all types routinely suggest legislative language, comment on proposed rules, and other provisions that are shared with the government,” Potts said in a statement to the news organization.
The executive order drew criticism from labor unions and Democratic lawmakers who said the order prioritized companies’ profits over workers’ wellbeing.
ProPublica said the USDA declined to comment, and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.
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