The Safe Line Speeds During COVID-19 Act has been reintroduced by U.S. Senator Cory Booker and Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Bennie Thompson. Primarily, the legislation will eliminate line speed waivers issued to meatpacking plants by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Booker explained that meatpacking plants have been a significant source of COVID-19 infections, in part due to increased production speeds.
“The Trump administration approved more than 20 requests from meatpacking plants to exceed regulatory limits on line speeds despite the risks posed to the safety of workers and consumers,” Booker said in a press release. “The Biden administration has taken an important first step in withdrawing the previous administration’s proposed rule to increase line speeds in poultry plants, but it is critically important that we continue to prioritize the safety of frontline workers and consumers over the profits of large multinational meatpacking corporations.”
The Safe Line Speeds During COVID-19 Act would suspend waivers issued by USDA and prevent any waivers to be issued to meat and poultry operations in the future. If passed, the legislation would also suspend the implementation of the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System. USDA would also be prohibited from using federal funding for anything that would increase line speeds at meat and poultry establishments.
“It is imperative that we ensure worker safety on slaughter lines,” said Thompson. “Safety cannot be exchanged for high production. During this unprecedented time of COVID-19, we should take the necessary precautions to ensure employees are safe while working at meat and poultry establishments.”
The Safe Line Speeds During COVID-19 Act has been endorsed by more than 40 different organizations. Supporters include the Humane Society of the United States, Friends of the Earth, and World Animal Protection. Both the Senate and House versions of the bill are co-sponsored by dozens of other primarily Democratic lawmakers.