MILWAUKEE - The ACLU of Wisconsin Tuesday filed an open records request with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and several local jurisdictions seeking information about how state and local health officials have responded to and prepared for COVID-19 outbreaks in meatpacking and food processing facilities.

Food processing plants have been ravaged by COVID-19 in the US. As of October, more than 40,000 meatpacking employees have been infected nationwide, and over 200 people have died, according to the New York Times and the Food & Environment Report Network. Outbreaks in these facilities disproportionately impact Latinx communities, which have been devastated by the pandemic, especially in Wisconsin.

The ACLU is requesting the following:

  • Reports or complaints of COVID-19 infections related to meat-packing and food processing plants in local jurisdictions.
  • Inspection or investigation documentation of meat packing and food processing plants in local jurisdiction.
  • Notes, correspondence, email or other communication documents between the state, local jurisdictions, and operators of meatpacking and/or food processing plants related to COVID-19.
  • Communications between DHS and local health departments about outbreaks of COVID-19 in meatpacking and/or food processing plants.
  •  Complaints or information received from workers or unions related to the adequacy of protective measures in place in meatpacking and/or food processing plants to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections within the workplace.
  •  Communications with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration related to the possibility or presence of COVID-19 outbreaks in meatpacking and/or food processing plants in local jurisdictions.

“Meatpacking plants and food processing facilities have been incubators for the coronavirus throughout the pandemic, both in Wisconsin and across the country,” said Timothy Muth, staff attorney at the ACLU of Wisconsin. “With COVID-19 cases, hospitalization rates, and deaths reaching new highs in Wisconsin, it is more important now than ever that state and local governments, public health agencies, and food manufacturers do everything in their power to protect essential workers who are taking extraordinary health risks to do their jobs each day in these facilities. The very least we can do is ensure that proper safety measures are in place and that evidence-based mitigation strategies are being adhered to.