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JBS sends cease-and-desist letter to union citing negative media attention

More than 100 employees at the Greeley meatpacking plant have tested positive for COVID-19, and the union says five have died.
Credit: KUSA

GREELEY, Colo. — JBS has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the union that represents its workers, arguing that it “has adopted a strategy of generating negative media attention and public opinion” to gain concessions from the company as it battles an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at its Greeley meatpacking plant.

A copy of that letter was provided to the 9NEWS by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 on Tuesday, as well as a rebuttal from the union’s president, Kim Cordova.

“Unfortunately your cease and desist letter, threatening to stifle our voice, and those of our members, as well as pursuing claims for unfounded, speculative, and unrecoverable damages is rife with numerous inaccuracies, suppositions, and erroneous conclusions I won’t spend time rebutting in their entirety,” Cordova wrote.

According to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, more than 100 employees at JBS have tested positive for COVID-19. At least four have died.

In a news release, UFCW Local 7 claimed that a fifth employee has also died.

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JBS was closed for two weeks for an extensive cleaning, but reopened on Friday, with more safety and social distancing measures in place for employees.

The cease-and-desist letter was dated April 24. Four days later – on Tuesday – President Donald Trump said he intended to sign a five-page executive order compelling meat processing plants to stay open, with the goal of minimizing disruption to the U.S.’ food supply chain.

According to a statement provided to 9NEWS from JBS last week, the plant will screen team members each day they arrive for work.

“JBS USA has coordinated with and implemented guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment,” the statement reads. “In addition, we hired consulting epidemiologists from the University of Colorado to evaluate our facility.

“We are confident the Greeley beef facility is safe, and would encourage Ms. Cordova to visit, something she hasn’t done in four years despite our repeated invitations.”

In her response to the cease-and-desist letter, Cordova said her statements on behalf of the employees was “nothing more than the exercise of our Constitutional and legal rights, regardless of how you improperly characterize them.”

You can read the full letter from JBS by clicking here, and the full letter from UFCW Local 7 by clicking here.

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