Apr 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Agriculture Department says meat inspectors responsible for protective gear

Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is asking its meat inspector employees to obtain protective gear for themselves — despite a national shortage — after an employee died from the novel coronavirus, Politico first reported.

Why it matters: USDA meat inspectors are responsible for checking product safety and labeling, but virtually all 8,000 of them have been left without face masks. The department is offering single $50 reimbursements for inspectors who obtain their own face masks.

  • Unions say the department has a responsibility to ensure workers have ample gear to keep themselves.
  • And meat packing plants often face close employee proximities, meaning social distancing is limited.

America is also at threat of a potential meat shortage due to factories shutting down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • A Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., last week was the largest single hotspot of coronavirus cases in the U.S.

What they're saying: "FSIS must maintain inspection of all meat, poultry, and egg products to ensure Americans continue to have a safe food supply during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic," a USDA spokesperson told Axios.

  • "USDA and CDC, in conjunction with other federal, state, and local partners, are working together to identify, coordinate, and, where requested, help provide guidance on worker safety best practices and facilitate the continuity of operations of packing plants and other entities that are part of the food supply chain critical infrastructure."

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Updated 31 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Updates: George Floyd protests continue past curfews

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued Tuesday across the U.S. for the eighth consecutive day, prompting a federal response from the National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

The latest: Even with early curfews in New York City and Washington, D.C., protesters are still out en masse. Some protesters in D.C. said they were galvanized by President Trump's photo op in front of St. John's Church on Monday and threat to deploy U.S. troops in the rest of country if violence isn't quelled, NBC News reports.

Updated 41 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump backs off push to federalize forces against riots

Photo: Brendan Smialowski /AFP via Getty Images

A day after threatening to federalize forces to snuff out riots across the country, the president appears to be backing off the idea of invoking the Insurrection Act, sources familiar with his plans tell Axios.

What we're hearing: Aides say he hasn’t ruled out its use at some point, but that he's “pleased” with the way protests were handled last night (apart from in New York City, as he indicated on Twitter today) — and that for now he's satisfied with leaving the crackdown to states through local law enforcement and the National Guard.

What we expect from our bosses

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Workers — especially millennials and Gen Zers — are paying close attention to the words and actions of their employers during national crises, such as the protests following the killing of George Floyd in police custody.

Why it matters: American companies have an enormous amount of wealth and influence that they can put toward effecting change, and CEOs have the potential to fill the leadership vacuum left by government inaction. More and more rank-and-file employees expect their bosses to do something with that money and power.