Union calls for Farmer John meat plant to close after COVID-19 outbreak

The union representing the 1800 employees of Smithfield Farmer John meatpacking plant in Vernon is calling for the plant to close down due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

The plant produces the famous 'Dodger Dog' and now more than 150 employees have been infected with the virus.

RELATED: Health officials: COVID-19 outbreaks at 9 facilities in Vernon including,153 infections at Farmer John plant

Almost ten percent of the workforce at the Farmer John meat plant have been infected with COVID-19 and that’s despite some pretty strong mitigation efforts the company put forward to stop the spread.

Now the employees say they’re afraid to come to work here and the union says it’s time to close the plant down.

For the past twenty-five years, Pedro Albarran has been a butcher at the Farmer John meatpacking plant in Vernon where the  famous Dodger Dogs are produced and for the first time in his career…he’s scared.

"Nobody wants to get infected so we’re afraid, Albarran told FOX 11.

He has a good reason to feel that way as Farmer Johns is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak where 153 of the plants more than 1800 workers have been infected.

"We have to work, there’s no choice, if you don’t show up to work, the company is going to start asking why you don’t show up so they’re forcing us to go," Albarran said.

"It seems to me the company is not in control of the infections," said John Grant who is the president of UFCW Local 770, the union representing the Farmer John workers and he’s calling for the Vernon plant to be shut down.

Smithfield, the company that owns the Farmer John plant tells FOX 11 they are doing everything possible to stop the spread of the virus. That includes giving workers PPE, free COVID-19 testing, thermal scanning of temperatures, social distancing and plastic barriers between work stations.

But Albarran feels it’s not working.

The union believes it's time to close down and pay benefits to its workers until the crisis is over.

Albarran tells FOX 11 he's enjoying the last hours of his Memorial day because he’s afraid to go back to work tomorrow.

He says, "The people that eat Dodger Dogs, or buy our products, we want them to know the real story of how this meat is produced, how we work, in what conditions we’re in when we work for the community."

The LA County Department of Public Health and the city of Vernon are investigating what caused this COVID outbreak which began with six cases in the ham deboning department and is now up to more than 150 cases,

The city tells us they are unaware of any deaths so far.

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