Poultry workers and their advocates are concerned about working conditions in Rockingham County’s processing plants. Monday afternoon, advocates held a local car rally to show solidarity for workers, and to send a message to those in power. WMRA’s Calvin Pynn reports.
Dozens of vehicles lined up single file in the Harrisonburg City Hall parking lot to travel to poultry plants around Rockingham County.
[Sound of cars lining up, people preparing signs and organizing]
Poultry workers have raised concerns that safety measures to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 at the plants have been inconsistent at best. They claim that they are not provided adequate personal protective equipment on the job and are forced to work shoulder to shoulder. Organizations across Virginia have stepped up in advocacy.
MICHAEL SNELL-FEIKEMA: You’re helping to sound the alarm about an impending outbreak that probably is already in process, but the sooner we intervene, the less damage it’s going to cause, so what you’re doing is extremely important.
That’s Michael Snell-Feikema, a member of the group Community Solidarity for Poultry Workers. They are part of a statewide coalition formed to protect essential workers during the pandemic. The group, which also include the Legal Aide Justice Center and United Food and Commercial Workers, recently sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia’s occupational safety agency urging them to use their emergency powers create enforceable protections for essential workers in the industry.
SNELL-FEIKEMA: The Governor and Virginia OSHA has free reign in developing their own standards for essential workers and for the poultry plants. And they don’t have to wait for OSHA to act.
Advocates took to their vehicles with signs in their windows declaring solidarity with the workers. The rally of about 30 cars first drove by the Rockingham County government office, then to George’s Incorporated plant in Harrisonburg, and then to Cargill’s turkey processing plant in Dayton. The procession honked their horns and circled the plants.
[Sound of car-rally honking]
The rally was held in sync with supporters on the eastern shore who had organized a car-rally for poultry workers at the Tyson and Perdue plants in Accomack County. You'll find more information on their Facebook page, Justice For Poultry Workers.