SIOUX FALLS, SD. – A recent statement by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 304A in Sioux Falls, SD, stated that hundreds of the plant’s 3,700 workers are absent from the Smithfield pork processing plant due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The union said about 460 people are out on long-term leave as a high-risk category.

According to information from the union on June 19, workers are leaving their jobs or not wanting to come back for COVID-19-related reasons. The statement also said workers are being denied all vacation or time off requests due to a lack of workers. 

On June 16, BJ Motley, president of the UFCW Local 304A, reported to the Argus Leader that between 800 and 1,200 employees were  quarantined or tested positive for COVID-19. 

A Smithfield Foods spokesperson said on June 18 that those numbers were outdated and inaccurate.

The union said workers in the high-risk category such as those over the age of 60, diabetics or those with asthma were previously going to be asked to return to work on June 15 by the company. That date was pushed back to June 29 after negotiations with the union. 

Additionally, Motley told the Argus Leader that Smithfield plans to continue to pay workers who have COVID-19 or were quarantined until July 31.