Meatless May? Latino civil rights group launches meat boycott as coronavirus hits plant workers

'Meatless May' targets beef, poultry, pork and eggs from corporate plants

The Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo. (Jeff Reinitz/Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

The Latino civil rights organization LULAC is asking Iowans to boycott corporate beef, pork, poultry and eggs this month in a show of solidarity with workers in food processing plants hit hard by the novel coronavirus.

LULAC launched its “Meatless May” campaign Friday in a virtual news conference that featured several Iowa Democrats, farmers and union representatives.

“We need everybody across the state of Iowa to join us, as a community, because it impacts everybody,” LULAC Iowa State Director Nick Salazar said.

We are calling for a coalition of many different groups of people who want to stand with the workers and protect our food supply. Our goal is dignity through sustainable production.”

The boycott comes as COVID-19 ravages workers in the Midwest’s food processing plants, where they work in close quarters on factory lines. Scores of Iowa’s more than 7,880 cases have stemmed from plants such as Tyson Foods in Waterloo, which closed its pork processing plant last week.

Tyson idled its largest beef plant, in Dakota City, Neb., on Friday.

As President Donald Trump calls on such plants to remain open and executives warn of looming food shortages, LULAC maintains employees, many of whom are Latino, are operating in unsafe conditions.

“Sending our workers onto the meatpacking plants’ kill floors without PPE is like sending firefighters into a burning house without respirators,” said Eddie Mauro, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate in Iowa. “Or soldiers to the front lines without a gas mask.”

The boycott encourages Iowans to go without meat and eggs produced by corporately owned plants while supporting local farmers, such as Chris Peterson, a hog farmer and co-founder of Iowans for Responsible Agriculture.

“No worker should be told to go to work and put your life at risk and not receive unemployment,” Peterson said during the news conference.

“That’s hogwash to me. In this country, that’s unforgivable.”

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