Workers at a suburban meat-packaging plant are concerned that the facility could become a hot spot for the coronavirus.
The Carl Buddig Company, located in South Holland, offers packaged lunches for consumers and important jobs for local families, but some employees, and their families, are concerned after several employees tested positive for COVID-19.
“Inside it’s not good,” Luis Rodriguez said. “They’re working close to each other, and they haven’t closed the plant to do the cleaning of machines where employees are working.”
Danny Fuentes says both of his parents, who work at the plant, were diagnosed with the virus, but he says his mother still feels like she must go to work.
“I tried telling them that my mom tested positive and now my dad was sick and was having problems, and they told me that they would pay him for up to two weeks, but after that they don’t know,” Fuentes said.
Now, the company is evaluating its options to keep workers safe and to keep the facility clean. Some families are calling for a brief shutdown of operations for a deep-cleaning of the factory and for employees who have been diagnosed with the virus to recover, and a company spokesperson says they are considering numerous options, including a brief closure.
In the meantime, the company says it fully sanitizes all production areas each night. All employees have their temperature taken on their way into the facility, and attendance policies for those who are sick, or who have sick family members, have been relaxed.
Managers at the plant are also trying to stagger breaks to keep employees from congregating in large groups, and executives are exploring the possibility of paid leave for employees who need more time away.
According to officials, approximately five percent of the plant’s 1,100-plus employees have tested positive for the virus.
“When we learn of an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19, we activate our response plan, which aligns with CDC and IDPH guidelines,” the company said in a statement. “We take precautions which conform with those guidelines and identify other employees who may have come into close contact with COVID-19 positive employees.”
Employees who test positive for the virus are placed on paid leave to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“We take seriously our responsibility to ensure their health and well-being, and take care of them during these difficult times, and we will continue to make every effort to do so,” the company’s statement added.
Even with those policies in place, families of those employees still working at the plant are hoping the company will do more to help.
Izamar Hernandez, the daughter of a worker at the plant, is one of those calling for more actions to be taken.
“If she doesn’t go to work, yeah, they’re not penalizing them, but they don’t get paid,” she said. “They’re not getting paid unless you have a doctor’s note.”