Rally calls for better conditions at Smithfield plant

Workers rally in Lincoln's Haymartket on Thursday.
Workers rally in Lincoln's Haymartket on Thursday.(News Channel Nebraska)
Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 3:37 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (News Channel Nebraska) - Union workers at a southeast Nebraska meat-packing plant are demanding better working conditions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plant workers and labor advocates rallied in downtown Lincoln on Thursday as Union leaders continue negotiations with management at the Smithfield plant in Crete, NE.

“We could do better contact tracing. We could do better ventilation in the locker rooms. We could do better cleaning around the plant. We could do hazard pay,” UFCW Local 293 President Eric Reeder explained.

The rally was also in support of LB 241. A bill introduced by Senator Tony Vargas that would help offer the protections workers are looking for. The bill is something Smithfield opposes.

“Even the CDC guidelines, like the plants have reminded me, ‘these are guidelines. We’re working within the guidelines.’ It’s way different than a hard and fast rule,” Reeder explained. “Think of a machine that has guarding on it. You have specific dimensions on how a guarding has to be. Why are we not doing the same thing for a virus you can’t see that transmits through the plant?”

Reeder said that negotiations with Smithfield stalled on Thursday, but that he expects them to resume again at a later date.

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