How Trump Is Helping Tycoons Exploit the Pandemic - 2020-07-13
On June 22nd, in the baking heat of a parking lot a few miles inland from Delaware's beaches, several dozen poultry workers, many of them Black or Latino, gathered to decry the conditions at a local poultry plant owned by one of President Donald Trump's biggest campaign contributors. "We're here for a reason that is atrocious," Nelson Hill, an official with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, told the small but boisterous crowd, which included top Democratic officials from the state, among them Senator Chris Coons. The union, part of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., represents some 1.3 million laborers in poultry-processing and meatpacking plants, as well as workers in grocery stores and retail establishments. Its members, many defined as "essential" workers—without the option of staying home—have been hit extraordinarily hard by the coronavirus. The union estimates that nearly thirty thousand of its workers in the food and health-care sectors have contracted COVID-19, and that two hundred and thirty-eight of those have died.
For the previous forty-two years, a thousand or so laborers at the local processing plant, in Selbyville, had been represented by Local 27. Just two years earlier, the workers there had ratified a new five-year contract. But, Hill told the crowd, in the middle of the pandemic, as the number of infected workers soared, the plant's owner, Mountaire Corporation—one of the country's largest purveyors of chicken—conspired, along with Donald Trump, to "kick us out."
Hill, who is Black and from a working-class family on the Delmarva Peninsula—a scrubby stretch of farmland that includes parts of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia—was used to the area's heat and humidity. But, as he spoke to the crowd, behind dark glasses, his face glistened with anger. "It's greed, that's what it is," he said. "It's a damn shame."