News3 News Now Investigators


Concerned about plant employees, 17 organizations send joint letter to governor

JBS plant supervisors told COVID-19 positive employees to go to work, according to the letter
Posted at 6:40 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 20:00:09-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Seventeen local and statewide organizations called on Gov. Pete Ricketts to ensure protective measures in food processing plants in a letter on Wednesday.

The organizations include Nebraska Appleseed, the ACLU of Nebraska, Center for Rural Affairs and others. One local health department signed the letter: the East Central District Health Department. The district covers Boone, Colfax, Nance and Platte counties.

The letter calls for paid sick leave, social distancing and protective equipment.

In the letter, the groups cite complaints from plant employees, including employees who say they are working shoulder-to-shoulder. Others say they've been told that they'd be fired if they complain about the working conditions.

“Managers tell us after receiving a positive COVID-19 case that we can just keep working and should keep working if we want to keep our job,” a plant employee said, according to Nebraska Appleseed.

Another complaint specifically mentions the same is happening at JBS. The letter doesn't specify if the employee works at the JBS beef plant in Omaha or Grand Island.

Read the full letter here.

Update, April 30, 7 p.m.: JBS provided a statement on the allegation in the letter.

The letter quotes someone who says: “[JBS] supervisors are telling people that even if they are positive they can go to work, to keep it on the DL. And to not say anything or they will get fired. An employee [said] her father works there and he was positive and they told him to come to work.”

JBS statement: "At JBS Grand Island, no one is forced to come to work and no one is punished for being absent for health reasons. If someone is sick or lives with someone who is sick, we send them home and they are compensated. We have protocols in place for quarantining people who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19, and we coordinate with the local health department and follow CDC guidance. If a person is concerned about COVID-19 but does not fall in the categories above, they can choose to self-quarantine and take unpaid leave. If anyone experienced something different, that is troubling and not consistent with our culture or our policies."