ACLU files federal lawsuit against Nebraska meatpacking plant over “treacherous COVID-19 conditions”
Failures outlined in the lawsuit mention severe crowding, sick people at work, forcing workers to use dirty masks.
HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Meatpacking workers in Nebraska filed a federal lawsuit Monday challenging what they call treacherous COVID-19 conditions at a meatpacking plant. The plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Nebraska, and Scottsbluff attorney Maren Chaloupka.
The lawsuit was filed against Noah’s Ark Processors, which operates a beef processing plant in Hastings. The plaintiffs include former plant employees and a local pediatrician who treats the children of meatpacking workers and people with COVID-19.
The lawsuit claims Noah’s Ark’s refused to take public health precautions — physical distancing, adequate sick leave, testing, and clean masks — to protect its workers and the surrounding community from a new surge of COVID-19 cases.
According to a release from the ACLU, the plaintiffs say the plant is a public nuisance because the transmission of COVID-19 within and outside the plant would cause widespread disease, hospitalizations, and death, not only among Noah’s Ark workers, but also their family members and members of the public with whom they interact.
“Noah’s Ark has shown a shocking indifference to its employees and the community by failing to take common-sense steps to protect them from the spread of COVID-19,” said Spencer Amdur, an attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Every plant should be providing these basic protections. Without them, workers and others in the community face imminent and severe harm.”The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the plant implement four basic practices: physical distancing, clean masks, sick leave, and testing.”This case is about racial justice and workers’ rights, health, and safety,” said Rose Godinez, an attorney at the ACLU of Nebraska. “As the daughter of retired meatpacking plant workers, I am heartbroken to see workers, their families, and our communities put in danger because of meatpacking plants’ refusal to protect essential workers from COVID-19. State and federal officials have also failed to protect these workers, so now we must turn to the courts to ensure the safe work environment that’s required by law.”
When contacted by Local4 Monday about the lawsuit, an assistant in the Noah’s Ark Hastings office said there would be no comment.
The case, Alma v. Noah’s Ark Processors, was filed in U.S. District Court in Lincoln, Nebraska.
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