American meat workers are starting to quit with plants reopening

America’s meat-processing plants are starting to reopen, but not all workers are showing up. Some still fear they’ll get sick after coronavirus outbreaks shut more than a dozen facilities last month. Employees are taking leave, paid and unpaid — or just quitting.

At a JBS USA plant in Greeley, Colorado, absenteeism is running as high as 30%. Before the pandemic, it was about 13%. The company is paying about 10% of the workforce — people deemed vulnerable — to stay home. Others aren’t coming in because they are sick.

But some workers are staying home because they are “scared,” according to Kim Cordova, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 7 union, which represents workers at the plant. She couldn’t provide specific numbers but noted on a recent visit that production speeds at the plant were “really slow” because of the labor crunch.