A “Beef” with Donnie
The military draft was an effective incentive for young men to take college seriously back in the 1960s. Of course, if Daddy was owed a favor by a dishonest doctor who would claim that you had a debilitating bone spur in your heel, the draft was not a problem. We’re looking at you, Donald Trump.
My father “doubled down” on that incentive when I joined him working at Wyoming Packing during the summer before I started college. We worked 10 hour days for, in my case, the princely sum of $50 per week. My duties included off-loading 250 pounds sides of beef from trailers and loading 400 pound barrels of beef back onto them. Between sessions of “heavy lifting”. I would retrieve bones, suet, and kidneys from the meat cutters’ stations.
The cutters were the work force elite, skilled and highest-paid. They stood side-by-side amid a pool of blood and mucus. Young “Skip” Dufton had to slip between them avoiding slashing knives to gather the detritus. It was something less than hygienic.
I thought of this when a Congressional committee issued a report last week about the Trump administration’s handling of meat packing plant workplace safety during the Pandemic. Nearly 60,000 meat workers caught COVID and nearly 300 died. Unions and OSHA pushed for a mask mandate, physical dividers between work stations, and increased distancing. The industry rejected all those recommendations and agreed only to a body temperature check before the workday began.
Lobbyists for Koch Foods (what are those Kochs not into?) actually wrote an Executive Order declaring meat packing as “critical infrastructure”, relieving the industry of any additional COVID-related safeguards, and forbidding any interference by state or local health and workplace safety officials. Of course, Donnie signed it verbatim. Why take the time and effort to write your own Executive Order when those nice people from Koch will do it for you?
Fifty seven years after my summer at Wyoming Packing, the memory of the blood and mucus at its work stations is clear. If there is an ideal medium for the COVID virus to prosper, it is there. I’m surprised that more meat workers did not die. Thanks for protecting the people, Donnie.
By Ed Dufton