Union announces free COVID-19 testing for Patrick Cudahy workers after coronavirus outbreak

CUDAHY -- Officials with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1473, Smithfield Foods, the Cudahy Health Department and Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced on Friday, April 24 free COVID-19 testing for all Smithfield Foods/Patrick Cudahy employees regardless of symptoms on-site at the plant.

Testing will be offered until Tuesday, April 28.

“This is the latest step in ensuring that every dedicated and essential worker at Smithfield Foods in Cudahy is safe and protected,” said UFCW Local 1473 President John Eiden in a news release. “We represent workers at more than 15 food processing and meat packing plants and are working to bring universal, free testing to all of them.”

On April 15, Smithfield Foods, Inc. announced a two-week closure at the Patrick Cudahy plant in Cudahy amid an outbreak of the coronavirus -- implementing "rolling closures" at the plant. At that time, there were 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among employees.

Union officials said in the release Friday UFCW Local 1473 has continually advocated with both employers and local government officials for improved working conditions and safety at all facilities, including Smithfield Foods, and that important improvements have been made including enhanced access to sick leave, better social distancing both in the plant and in common and break areas, multiple layers of enhanced personal protective equipment and physical barriers in the plant where social distancing isn’t possible.

“Every member deserves to be safe and even one case is too many,” said Eiden. “But we can’t do it alone -- we need local governments and companies to step up to ensure that these essential workers have every protection possible.”

The release noted for that reason, Local 1473 has repeatedly asked Governor Tony Evers to declare food processing and meatpacking workers to be Tier One essential workers to ensure that they have access to both the testing and the protective equipment they need.